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Lawrence v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

April 4, 2018

MISTY LAWRENCE APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM THE GREENE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 28JV-16-65] HONORABLE BARBARA HALSEY, JUDGE

          Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

          Andrew Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

          RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, JUDGE

         Misty Lawrence appeals the Greene County Circuit Court order terminating her parental rights to her daughter, F.R. On appeal, Lawrence argues that the circuit court erred by (1) not complying with the notice provision of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA); (2) terminating her parental rights based on grounds not pled in the amended petition; and (3) finding that it is in F.R.'s best interest to terminate her parental rights. We affirm.

         On March 11, 2016, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect concerning F.R. The petition listed Lawrence as the mother and Joshua Richer[1] as the putative father. In the affidavit attached to the petition, DHS stated that it had received a report from the hospital where F.R. was born that Lawrence could not adequately care for the child. Specifically, a nurse reported that the nursing staff had been feeding F.R. more than Lawrence and that Lawrence had been talking to herself and had scabies. Lawrence admitted that she had had her rights terminated to two other children due to her mental instability. DHS visited Lawrence's duplex and found it inappropriate for the child. The court entered an ex parte order for emergency custody the day the petition was filed.

         On March 16, 2016, the court entered a probable-cause order. In the order, the court included the following:

The mother does/does not have membership in or descent from an Indian Tribe; the legal/putative father does/does not have membership in or descent from an Indian tribe; the juvenile does/does not have membership in or descent from an Indian tribe.

         The phrase "does not" appears to be scratched through.

         On May 12, 2016, the court adjudicated F.R. dependent-neglected based on both inadequate supervision due to Lawrence's failure to feed the child as directed and concerns about her mental health. The adjudication order also contains the language concerning the "legal/putative father['s]" relationship to an Indian tribe; however, a line is not drawn through "does not."

         On September 26, 2016, the court entered a review order. The court found that Lawrence had partially complied with the case plan. The court noted a primary concern had been environmental neglect and that Lawrence's home still had "a strong odor of animal urine." The court ordered Lawrence to have supervised visitation at the DHS office for one hour or more.

         On March 6, 2017, the court entered a permanency-planning order. The court found that Lawrence had complied with the case plan but had not made substantial, measurable progress. The court changed the goal of the case to adoption with DHS filing a petition for termination of Lawrence's parental rights. The court continued Lawrence's visitation with F.R. for one hour every two weeks.

         On April 12, 2017, DHS filed a petition for termination of parental rights. DHS alleged the failure-to-remedy ground, [2] subsequent-factors ground, [3] and aggravated-circumstances ground.[4] About twenty minutes after DHS had filed its original complaint, DHS filed an amended petition for ...


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