FROM THE DALLAS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 20JV-16-7]
HONORABLE DAVID W. TALLEY, JR., JUDGE.
Bowers Lee, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
Imbeau, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
M. GLOVER, JUDGE.
Cole appeals the Dallas County Circuit Court's order
terminating her parental rights to her five children: son
J.C. (born 9-18-07), son S.M. (born 10-20-10), daughter L.M.
(born 5-21-13), son B.P. (born 4-29-15), and son J.P. (born
5-18-16). She contends the circuit court erred in
terminating her parental rights because the Arkansas
Department of Human Services (DHS) failed to prove
termination was in her children's best interest;
specifically, she argues there was insufficient evidence of
the likelihood of adoption. We affirm the termination.
four older children were taken into DHS custody on an
emergency basis in January 2016 after allegations of child
maltreatment were made regarding J.C., who uses a wheelchair
and has a feeding tube. It was reported that Cole had come to
Arkansas from Mississippi with the children, but she had
failed to begin J.C.'s therapies in Arkansas and had
"not been paying good attention to him." During the
DHS investigation of these allegations, Cole tested positive
for THC; she took the children out of the home in which they
had been living but did not take any of J.C.'s medical
products; and it was discovered J.C. had missed twenty days
of school. When DHS finally located Cole, the home in which
she and the children were living had no furniture or food;
clothes were strewn about the home; the children smelled of
urine, dirt was caked on their faces, and they had head lice;
and none of J.C.'s medical equipment was in the home. The
circuit court granted DHS an ex parte order of emergency
custody; a probable-cause order continuing custody with DHS
was also granted. An adjudication order was entered in April
2016; in it, the circuit court noted J.C. had missed an
excessive amount of school (20 days), thereby missing his
necessary occupational, speech, and physical therapies; Cole
had tested positive for THC; J.C.'s medical equipment was
not in the home; and the children had head lice. Cole
stipulated to those facts and that the children were
dependent-neglected based on those facts.
25, 2016, DHS filed a petition for emergency custody of J.P.
J.P. was born on May 18, 2016, and DHS took a 72-hour hold on
him on May 19; J.P. and Cole both tested positive for
amphetamines when J.P. was born at thirty-six weeks. J.P. was
taken to Arkansas Children's Hospital when he was born
due to palate issues and an inability to keep formula down.
An ex parte order of custody for J.P. was entered the same
day; a probable-cause order was also entered, continuing
J.P.'s custody with DHS. An adjudication order for J.P.
was filed on August 15, 2016, adjudicating J.P.
dependent-neglected due to his meconium testing positive at
birth for methamphetamine and amphetamines and because his
siblings were previously adjudicated dependent-neglected in
April 2016; Cole stipulated to these facts and these
findings. Review orders concerning all five children were
entered in August and November 2016, with the orders
continuing custody with DHS. A permanency-planning order was
entered in February 2017; the goal was placement of the
children with a parent, guardian, or custodian.
2, 2017, DHS filed a petition to terminate parental rights.
As to Cole, the grounds alleged for termination were twelve
months out of custody and failure to remedy conditions that
caused removal; other factors; and aggravated circumstances.
On May 5, a fifteen-month review order was filed changing the
goal of the case from reunification to termination of
parental rights. On July 19, 2017, a hearing on DHS's
petition to terminate parental rights was held after which
the circuit court terminated Cole's parental rights as
well as the parental rights of the children's legal
fathers. The circuit court terminated Cole's parental
rights on all three bases alleged by DHS in its petition.
of parental rights is a two-step process requiring a
determination that the parent is unfit and that termination
is in the best interest of the children. Norton v.
Arkansas Dep't of Human Servs., 2017 Ark.App. 285.
The first step requires proof of one or more statutory
grounds for termination; the second step, the best-interest
analysis, includes consideration of the likelihood the
juveniles will be adopted and of the potential harm caused by
returning custody of the children to the parent. Id.
Each step requires proof by clear and convincing evidence,
which is the degree of proof that will produce in the finder
of fact a firm conviction regarding the allegation sought to
be established. Id.
review of termination-of-parental-rights cases is de novo,
and our inquiry on appeal is whether the circuit court's
finding that the disputed fact was proved by clear and
convincing evidence is clearly erroneous. Wallace v.
Arkansas Dep't of Human Servs., 2017 Ark.App. 376,
524 S.W.3d 439. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although
there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the
entire evidence is left with a definite and firm conviction
that a mistake has been made. Id. In resolving the
clearly erroneous question, a high degree of ...