FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72JV16-904]
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.
KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge
Alecia Harjo appeals from the termination of her parental
rights to her son Z.H.1, age 8, and her daughter Z.H.2, age
Because Z.H.1 and Z.H.2 are Indian children, the Indian Child
Welfare Act (ICWA), 25 U.S.C. §§ 1901 et seq.,
applies to the case. On appeal, Alecia argues that the
termination order should be reversed because the evidence was
insufficient to establish statutory grounds for termination.
review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo.
Mitchell v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2013
Ark.App. 715, 430 S.W.3d 851. At least one statutory ground
must exist, in addition to a finding that it is in the
children's best interest to terminate parental rights.
Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341 (Supp. 2017); Kohlman v.
Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2018 Ark.App. 164,
S.W.3d . For termination proceedings subject to the ICWA, as
in this case, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable
doubt. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-325(h)(3)(B)(2) (Supp.
2017). We will not reverse the trial court's ruling
unless its findings are clearly erroneous. Sharks v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2016 Ark.App. 435, 502 S.W.3d
569. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is
evidence to support it, we are left with a definite and firm
conviction that a mistake has been made. Id.
case was initiated by appellee Arkansas Department of Human
Services (DHS) when it filed a petition for emergency custody
of the children in Washington County Circuit Court on May 2,
2016. An attached affidavit of a family-service worker stated
that the children were removed from the parents' home in
Washington County two days earlier pursuant to an emergency
hold. The affidavit alleged that both parents, Alecia and
Joshua, had been arrested, thereby leaving no caretaker for
the children. Alecia was arrested for endangering the welfare
of a minor and public intoxication. Joshua was arrested for
endangering the welfare of a minor and domestic battery
committed against Alecia. The affidavit further stated that
there had been prior DHS involvement with the family for
issues related to environmental neglect, educational neglect,
and inadequate shelter.
2, 2016, the Washington County Circuit Court entered an ex
parte order for emergency custody of the children. A
probable-cause order was entered on May 3, 2016.
Washington County Circuit Court entered an adjudication order
on June 22, 2016, finding the children to be
dependent-neglected. The trial court placed custody of the
children with their maternal grandfather, Max Trotter, who
lives in Izard County. The trial court authorized Alecia to
live in the home with Mr. Trotter and the children, but she
was ordered not to be alone with the children. Alecia was
ordered to cooperate with DHS, participate in counseling,
submit to a drug-and-alcohol assessment and follow the
recommendations, refrain from using illegal drugs or alcohol,
submit to drug screens, and maintain stable housing and
employment. The goal of the case was reunification. Because
the juveniles were relocated to Izard County, an order was
entered transferring the case to Izard County Circuit Court.
Izard County Circuit Court conducted a review hearing on
September 20, 2016, and the court subsequently entered a
review order finding that the parents had complied with the
case plan. On October 14, 2016, DHS filed in Izard County
Circuit Court a motion for ex parte emergency custody of the
children. Attached to the petition was an affidavit of a
family-service worker stating:
There was an emergency and services could not be provided to
prevent removal. FSW Hutchins received several phone calls
from the grandfather, Max Trotter. Mr. Trotter stated that he
can no longer take care of the children, due to the mother
not being in compliance with the case and that she was using
illegal substances. Mr. Trotter stated that he did not
believe that the children would be safe in his home due to
the children's father and his daughter's behaviors.
Mr. Trotter stated that he did not want the children to be
harmed and that his daughter was not doing what she needed to
do. Mrs. Harjo contacted FSW Hutchins and was very erratic on
the phone stating that her father was kicking her out of the
home and she was going back to her husband in Northwest AR.
October 24, 2016, the Izard County Circuit Court entered an
order of emergency change of custody, placing the children in
the custody of DHS. The children returned to Washington
County, and an order was entered transferring the case back
to Washington County Circuit Court.
December 22, 2016, in Washington County Circuit Court, an
agreed order was entered whereby the parties agreed to a
trial home placement of the children with the parents. In
that order, the parties agreed that Alecia and Joshua were in
compliance with the case plan, that the parents' home was
clean and appropriate, and that the parents had passed random
drug screens. In addition, Alecia's criminal charges had