Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Cole v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

February 14, 2018



          Tina Bowers Lee, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

          Anna Imbeau, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

          Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for minor children.


         Ashley 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).[1] 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.


         The 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.[2] 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.

         On May 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.

         On May 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.

         Sufficiency of Evidence

         Termination 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.

         Appellate 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 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.