FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72JV-17-482]
HONORABLE STACEY ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
W. GRUBER, CHIEF JUDGE.
Allen-Grace appeals from the Washington County Circuit
Court's order adjudicating her three children-A.S.
(01/22/04), A.G.1 (10/09/09), and A.G.2
(09/18/12)-dependent-neglected. On appeal, appellant argues
that the evidence was insufficient to support the court's
finding that the children were dependent-neglected. We
17, 2017, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS)
exercised a 72-hour hold on appellant's three children.
On June 20, 2017, DHS filed a petition for emergency custody
and dependency-neglect, and an order for emergency custody
was entered the same day. A probable-cause hearing was held
on June 22, 2017. The trial court found that probable cause
existed to issue the ex parte order and continued to exist,
making it necessary for the children to remain in the custody
of DHS. On July 24, 2017, the trial court entered an order
placing A.G.1 and A.G.2 in the legal custody of their
paternal grandparents, Joann and Albert Grace. An
adjudication hearing was held on July 26, 2017.
case originated when the police were called to investigate a
domestic disturbance on June 16, 2017, involving appellant
and A.S. Springdale police officer Jacob Enos testified that
A.S.'s physical appearance concerned him because she had
a large swelling on her nose and under her eye. He spoke with
A.S. about what happened and felt her story was credible.
Officer Enos testified that during the investigation,
appellant was arrested on the charge of third-degree domestic
battery involving A.S. Later, he saw appellant at the jail,
and although he did not speak to her, he testified that she
appeared to be very intoxicated based on his observation.
Graham, the DHS investigator, began an investigation after
receiving a call from the hotline that a priority-one
referral was received for threat of harm, which included
striking a child with a closed fist; striking a child age
seven or older in the face or head; and cuts, bruises, or
welts. The alleged victim was A.S. Graham interviewed
appellant and A.S. on June 17, 2017, the day after the
alleged disturbance. She noted that she did not see A.G.1 and
A.G.2 during her investigation. She testified that when she
interviewed A.S. at a neighbor's home, A.S. had raised,
red welts on the bridge of her nose and near her left eye.
A.S. stated that appellant had punched her in the face and
hit her with a candle. According to the affidavit in support
of the petition for emergency custody, A.S. reported that
appellant was intoxicated. Graham spoke to appellant at her
home, and appellant denied she had done anything and had no
explanation for A.S.'s injuries.
of A.S.'s injuries, as well pictures of the home, were
introduced into evidence. Graham testified that there were
boxes and things scattered throughout the house. She
indicated that the photo of appellant's bedroom showed a
beer bottle on the nightstand, a mostly empty six-pack
container and two open bottles, and cigarettes. She testified
that there was broken glass, broken items, and garbage on the
floor of A.S.'s bedroom. She stated that the house was
very messy and unsanitary, elaborating that there was dried
dog urine and feces inside the home. Graham noted that there
was not much food in the home. As a result of the
investigation, DHS found true against appellant for the
offense of cuts, bruises, and welts; striking a child age
seven or older on the face or head; and striking a child with
a closed fist, with A.S. as the victim. When questioned about
prior DHS involvement with the family, Graham stated the
history went back to 2008. There was a true finding against
Matthew Steed,  A.S.'s legal father, for sexual abuse
naming A.S. as the victim, as well as two investigations
involving appellant, one for neglect and one for abuse, both
of which were unsubstantiated.
caseworker, Haley Mehan, testified that A.G.1 and A.G.2 were
in the legal custody of Joanne and Albert Grace, their
paternal grandparents. She did not have any problem with
their father living in the home, although he had pending
methamphetamine charges, based on her observations when
visiting the home. She indicated A.G.1 and A.G.2 were
thriving and happy to be there. Mehan recommended that
appellant's visitation continue at one hour per week. She
explained that A.S. remained in the custody of DHS and was
placed provisionally with her paternal grandparents, Leslie
and Peter Halpern. She also indicated that A.S. was doing
well and that appellant had no contact with A.S. due to the
criminal charge. In addition, Mehan testified that she had
spoken with Steed, who lives in Colorado, and he did not ask
to be present by phone for the adjudication. She recommended
that he have no face-to-face contact with A.S.
Grace testified that while he was married to
appellant, appellant was violent toward A.S. and that he had
intervened on several occasions. He stated appellant would
strike her, call her names, and verbally abuse her. He
testified that appellant would get intoxicated on a regular
basis and expressed concern about her prescribed anxiety
medications, which included Xanax. He stated that he had
concerns about A.G.1 and A.G.2 being in her home. He
acknowledged having two pending drug charges for possession
of methamphetamine, one in Missouri and one in Benton County,
which prompted a revocation of probation for a
Halpern, A.S.'s paternal grandmother, testified that A.S.
was doing well in her home. Mrs. Halpern also stated that
A.S. was in counseling.
testified that she had lived in Springdale her whole life
except for one year when she lived in Siloam Springs. She
stated that she was a teacher and had a master's degree
in special education. On June 16, 2017, appellant was still
moving back to Springdale from Siloam Springs. She testified
that since her divorce from Alan Grace, which she believed
was in 2014, she had problems getting along with A.S. She
stated that A.S. began self-harming (cutting), threatening
suicide, threatening to run away, and stealing. She testified
that A.S. also became violent with her and her sisters; she
would throw things and break things. ...