FROM THE CRITTENDEN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 18JV-14-110]
HONORABLE RALPH WILSON, JR., JUDGE
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
E. Corbyn, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
W. GRUBER, Chief Judge
Rickman appeals from the Crittenden County Circuit
Court's order terminating her parental rights to K.R.,
born August 23, 2007. Appellant does not challenge the
grounds for her termination. Her sole point on appeal is that
the evidence was insufficient to support the circuit
court's decision that termination was in K.R.'s best
interest because appellant does not pose a potential harm to
K.R. We find no error and affirm the circuit court's
case began on May 13, 2014, when the Arkansas Department of
Human Services (DHS) took emergency custody of K.R. based on
Rickman's illegal drug use. K.R. had been in foster care
for over three years when the court terminated
appellant's parental rights to K.R. in an order entered
on June 5, 2017. The court terminated on the ground of
aggravated circumstances, based on its previous finding that
there was little likelihood that further services to
appellant would result in successful reunification. The court
had entered an order less than three months earlier
terminating further reunification services to appellant,
finding by clear and convincing evidence that aggravated
circumstances existed because there was little likelihood
that further services to the family would result in
successful reunification; finding that it was not possible to
return K.R. to appellant; and determining that K.R.
"desperately need[ed] stability and continuity."
This court affirmed that decision in Rickman v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2017 Ark.App. 610, 534 S.W.3d
180. A more complete rendition of the procedural history in
this case is set forth in that opinion. Id.
finding that it was in K.R.'s best interest for
appellant's parental rights to be terminated, the court
specifically considered the testimony of the foster parent
that she was interested in adopting K.R. and the testimony of
the caseworker that there was a substantial likelihood that
K.R. would be adopted. The court also found by clear and
convincing evidence that there was potential harm to K.R. if
she were to be returned to appellant's custody,
specifically stating the following:
The court further finds by clear and convincing evidence that
there is potential harm if [K.R.] is returned to the custody
of the mother, based on the Court's findings in
subparagraphs J, K, and L of the No Reunification Services
order issued by the Court on [February] 9, 2017, and filed
for record on March 6, 2017, and that those findings are
incorporated hereto. Specifically, the Court held after the
hearing that it was contrary to the health, safety and
welfare for [K.R.] to be returned home, and that there had
been a lack of stability in Sherry Rickman's home, with
significant ongoing issues with clutter and trash that would
be harmful to the child, and there was a lack of stability in
the home in Sherry Rickman's relationship with Johnny
Underwood, when there had been two incidents of domestic
violence within the past six months and evidence of alcohol
abuse by Mr. Underwood, as well as Mr. Dow's testimony on
that date that was based on Ms. Rickman's statements to
him, she was in an emotionally and physically abusive
relationship. The Court notes despite Ms. Rickman's
testimony on that date that he had moved out of the home, he
was visiting the home two to three times per week and had
spent the night before the hearing in the home. Further Ms.
Rickman's own testimony on that date was that she had an
addiction to Adderall and had tried to get Adderall by means
other than from medical providers. There was further
testimony that Ms. Rickman suffered from borderline
functioning, and had issues taking her medication regularly
and had issues with parenting.
appeal, appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient
to support the court's best-interest finding because
appellant does not pose a potential harm to K.R.
Specifically, appellant contends that the court's
reliance on its no-reunification order for evidence of
potential harm was not sufficient. She argues that DHS was
required to present proof of potential harm at the
termination hearing and claims that there was no evidence
regarding appellant's "current situation" as it
existed after the no-reunification order was entered and at
the time of the termination hearing.
review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo.
Dinkins v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 344 Ark.
207, 40 S.W.3d 286 (2001). At least one statutory ground must
exist, in addition to a finding that it is in the child's
best interest to terminate parental rights; these must be
proved by clear and convincing evidence. Ark. Code Ann.
§ 9-27-341 (Supp. 2017). The appellate inquiry is
whether the circuit court's finding that the disputed
fact was proved by clear and convincing evidence is clearly
erroneous. Shawkey v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 2017 Ark.App. 2, at 4, 510 S.W.3d 803, 806.
Credibility determinations are left to the fact-finder.
Id. Finally, the intent behind the
termination-of-parental-rights statute is to provide
permanency in a child's life when it is not possible to
return the child to the family home because it is contrary to
the child's health, safety, or welfare, and a return to
the family home cannot be accomplished in a reasonable period
of time as viewed from the child's perspective. Ark. Code
Ann. § 9-27-341(a)(3).
finding that termination is in the best interest of the
child, the circuit court is required to consider the
potential harm to the health and safety of the child that
might result from returning the child to the parent's
custody. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(A)(ii). The
circuit court is not required to find that actual harm would
result or to affirmatively identify a potential harm.
Dowdy v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2009
Ark.App. 180, 314 S.W.3d 722. The potential-harm evidence
must be viewed in a forward-looking manner and considered in
broad terms. Samuels v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 2014 Ark.App. 527, 443 S.W.3d 599. Finally, a
parent's past behavior is often a good indicator of
future behavior and may be viewed as a predictor of likely
potential harm should the child be returned to the
parent's care and custody. Shawkey, 2017
Ark.App. 2, at 6, 510 S.W.3d at 807; Helvey v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2016 Ark.App. 418, at 10, 501
S.W.3d 398, 404.
the no-reunification order containing the findings the court
later considered important in its consideration of potential
harm was entered less than three months before the
termination hearing. Moreover, the case had been pending for
three years while K.R. lingered in foster care. In addition
to the evidence at the termination hearing, Arkansas Code
Annotated section 9-27-341(a)(4)(B) requires the court to
"rely upon the record of the parent's compliance in
the entire dependency-neglect case" in making its
decision whether it is in the juvenile's best interest to
terminate parental rights. Ark. Code Ann. §
9-27-341(a)(4)(B). And the law specifically provides that a
parent's overtures toward participation in the case plan
or following orders of the court "following the
permanency planning hearing and preceding the termination
hearing is an insufficient reason to not terminate parental
rights." Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(a)(4)(A).
Finally, although appellant testified that she had a clean
home, was medication compliant, was participating in
counseling, and had stable housing at the time of the
hearing, her caseworker testified that she had no information
that appellant's status had significantly changed since
the reunification services had been terminated several months
earlier and that appellant had not contacted DHS to offer any
evidence of changes. Furthermore, appellant failed to provide
any reports or other confirmation that she was compliant with
counseling, medications, and other aspects of the court's
prior orders. Credibility determinations are for the circuit
court, Shawkey, 2017 Ark.App. 2, at 4, 510 S.W.3d at
806, and it was not required to believe appellant's
self-serving testimony at the termination hearing that her
situation had changed less than three months after it had
terminated her reunification services. Tankersley v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2012 Ark.App. 109, at 7-8,
389 S.W.3d 96, 100.
the circuit court did not clearly err in considering that
potential harm could result if K.R. were returned to
appellant's custody and in finding that termination of