FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, EIGHTH DIVISION [NO.
60JV-16-1170] HONORABLE WILEY A. BRANTON, JR., JUDGE
Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission,
Dependency-Neglect Appellate Division, for appellant.
BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge
Roland appeals the termination of her parental rights to
K.D., S.M.1, S.M.2, C.M., K.M., and A.M. Roland's counsel
has filed a motion to withdraw and a no-merit brief pursuant
to our rules and caselaw stating that there are no
meritorious grounds to support an appeal. Ark. Sup. Ct. R.
6-9 (2017); Linker-Flores v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 359 Ark. 131, 194 S.W.3d 739 (2004). Our court
clerk mailed-by restricted delivery, return receipt
requested-a certified copy of counsel's motion and brief
to Roland's last-known address informing her of her right
to file pro se points for reversal. Roland has not filed pro
se points for reversal, and the Arkansas Department of Human
Services (DHS) has not filed a brief. We affirm the
court's decision to terminate Roland's parental
rights and grant counsel's motion to withdraw.
children were adjudicated dependent-neglected in 2016 because
of parental unfitness, inadequate supervision, environmental
neglect, medical neglect, and exposure to toxic substances. A
police officer discovered the children around 4:35 a.m. after
Roland had left the children alone in a car. Five of the six
children tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, and
opiates. The children also suffered malnourishment, and one
had a severe parasitic infection. Roland had a prior
nine-year history with DHS that included true findings for
educational neglect and drug use. In its adjudication order,
the circuit court made a finding of aggravated circumstances
based on the totality of the circumstances, and Roland did
not appeal that order.
circuit court had ordered many family services and, in
February 2017, found that Roland was making "no progress
whatsoever, " was not complying with the case plan, and
was "in denial about having a drug problem." A July
2017 permanency-planning order noted that Roland had made
"some minimal efforts but has not established any
lasting, genuine progress." Nine months into the case,
Roland refused to take a drug screen at DHS but did agree to
inpatient drug rehabilitation. Her psychological report was
"not encouraging, " and Roland had been homeless
and jobless throughout the case. The court made a second
aggravated-circumstances finding and changed the case goal to
adoption. The court was concerned about whether Roland could
maintain sobriety after completing a drug-rehabilitation
filed termination petitions in July and August 2017. The
circuit court terminated Roland's parental rights in
November 2017, determining that DHS had proved four grounds
by clear and convincing evidence and that termination was in
the children's best interest.
review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo.
Cheney v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2012
Ark.App. 209, 396 S.W.3d 272. An order terminating parental
rights must be based on a finding by clear and convincing
evidence that the sought-after termination is in the
children's best interest. The circuit court must consider
the likelihood that the children will be adopted if the
parent's rights are terminated and the potential harm
that could be caused if the children are returned to a
parent. Harper v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs.,
2011 Ark.App. 280, 378 S.W.3d 884. The circuit court must
also find that one of the grounds stated in the termination
statute is satisfied. Id. Clear and convincing
evidence is that degree of proof that will produce in the
fact-finder a firm conviction that the allegation has been
established. Pratt v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 2012 Ark.App. 399, 413 S.W.3d 261. When the
burden of proving a disputed fact is by clear and convincing
evidence, we ask whether the circuit court's finding on
the disputed fact is clearly erroneous. Id. 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.
dependency-neglect cases, if, after studying the record and
researching the law, appellant's counsel determines that
the appellant has no meritorious basis for appeal, then
counsel may file a no-merit petition and move to withdraw.
Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 6-9(i)(1) (2017). The petition must include
an argument section that lists all adverse rulings that the
parent received at the circuit court level and explain why
each adverse ruling is not a meritorious ground for reversal.
Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 6-9(i)(1)(A). The petition must also include
an abstract and addendum containing all rulings adverse to
the appealing parent that were made during the hearing from
which the order on appeal arose. Ark. Sup. Ct. R.
grounds were alleged against Roland: (1) twelve-month
failure-to-remedy; (2) willful failure to provide significant
support or maintain meaningful contact; (3) other factors
arising, and (4) aggravated circumstances. See Ark.
Code Ann. §§ 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(i)(a),
(ii)(a), (vii)(a), and (ix)(a)
correctly states in the argument portion of her brief that,
in termination cases, a challenge to a finding of abuse or
aggravated circumstances must be made, if at all, in an
appeal from the adjudication hearing. Hannah v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 502, at 4.
Because Roland did not appeal the court's prior
aggravated-circumstances findings in its adjudication and
permanency-planning orders, we agree with counsel that there
is no meritorious appellate challenge to the
aggravated-circumstances statutory ground that was used to
terminate Roland's parental rights. And counsel is also
correct that a challenge to the other statutory grounds used
in the ...