FROM THE SALINE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 63JV-16-280]
HONORABLE GARY ARNOLD, JUDGE
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
and Whiteaker, JJ., agree.
J. GLADWIN, Judge
for Angelica Rylie brings this no-merit appeal from the
Saline County Circuit Court's order entered on November
15, 2017, terminating Rylie's parental rights to TB, born
September 20, 2016. Rylie filed a notice of appeal on
December 6, 2017, and, pursuant to Linker-Flores v.
Arkansas Department of Human Services, 359 Ark. 131, 194
S.W.3d 739 (2004), and Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i)
(2017), counsel has filed a no-merit brief setting forth all
adverse rulings from the termination hearing and asserting
that there are no issues that would support a meritorious
appeal; the sole adverse ruling was the termination. Counsel
has also filed a motion asking to be relieved. The clerk of
this court sent a copy of the brief and motion to be relieved
to Rylie's last-known address, informing her that she had
the right to file pro se points for reversal under Arkansas
Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i)(3). Rylie filed pro se points on
appeal, and the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS)
filed a response, asking that the termination order be
affirmed. We grant counsel's motion to withdraw and
affirm the order terminating Rylie's parental rights.
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 child. Griffin v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2017 Ark.App. 635. 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 that the juvenile
will be adopted and of the potential harm caused by returning
custody of the child to the parent. Ark. Code Ann. §
9-27-341(b)(3)(B), (A) (Repl. 2015). Each of these 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. Our review is de novo. Bentley v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2018 Ark.App. 125. The
appellate inquiry is whether the circuit court's finding
that the disputed fact was proved by clear and convincing
evidence is clearly erroneous. Lazaravage v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2018 Ark.App. 29, 541 S.W.3d
450. 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, the reviewing court defers to the
circuit court because of its superior opportunity to observe
the parties and to judge the credibility of witnesses.
child was taken into custody by DHS after Rylie admitted to
multiple instances of substance abuse up to one week prior to
delivery of TB. Rylie tested positive for methamphetamine and
cocaine after TB's birth and admitted that she did not
have proper housing and had no baby supplies. Further, Rylie
had parental rights terminated to three other
circuit court adjudicated TB dependent-neglected in an order
entered November 28, 2016, due to abuse, neglect, and
parental unfitness. The circuit court found that Rylie's
engaging in conduct creating a realistic and serious threat
of death, permanent or temporary disfigurement, or impairment
of any bodily organ was abuse. Rylie's failure to provide
necessary shelter was neglect, and her use of an illegal
substance while pregnant was proof of her unfitness as a
parent. At a review hearing three months later, the court
found that reunification should remain the goal but found
that Rylie had been arrested shortly after the November
hearing; her parole had been revoked, and she had been in the
custody of the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC). Rylie
completed a psychological evaluation and participated in
visitation, random drug screening, individual counseling, and
parenting education. At the review hearing in June 2017, the
goal remained reunification, and the circuit court noted that
Rylie had partially complied by completing parenting
education while in the ADC. Rylie also had participated in
visitation and had begun individual counseling. However, she
was arrested again shortly after her release from prison; she
had no stable income or employment; and she only participated
in the drug-and-alcohol assessment the week before the
hearing. The court ordered Rylie to submit to a hair-follicle
examination, among other things.
filed a petition for termination of parental rights on August
18, 2017, alleging that Rylie had her parental rights
involuntarily terminated as to a sibling of the child. Ark.
Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(ix)(a)(4). DHS
also alleged that there were several potential adoptive
placements for the child and that the child would be
subjected to potential harm if placed back in Rylie's
custody due to Rylie's continued use of marijuana and
termination hearing held October 2, 2017, Rylie's
caseworker, Tanner Marshall, testified that he had prepared a
court report, which was introduced into evidence. The report
sets forth that Rylie had tested positive for methamphetamine
and cocaine after TB was born and that she had admitted using
both drugs during her pregnancy. She also admitted that she
did not have suitable housing or the supplies needed for TB.
DHS placed a hold on TB on September 22, 2016, and he was
placed with a foster family with whom he remained throughout
the case. Rylie was imprisoned for absconding, and she was
released on May 22, 2017, but arrested on May 30, 2017, and
charged with assault on a family member after she had become
angry because her ex-boyfriend had slept with her cousin.
Rylie tested positive for THC on July 27, 2017, and she had
also tested positive for methamphetamine in the same month.
Tanner testified that Rylie entered inpatient treatment two
weeks prior to the termination hearing. Tanner requested on
behalf of DHS that Rylie's parental rights be terminated
because of her continued drug use.
Marfoglio-Hinton, an adoption specialist for DHS, testified
that TB's adoptability was very likely. She said that
there were 521 possible matches in their database, which
meant that there were 521 foster homes interested in adopting
a child who shared TB's characteristics.
testified that it had been five months since she had used any
kind of controlled substance; then she stated that she did
not know why she was "still using." She admitted
that she had two involuntary terminations due to drug use.
She also admitted that she had tested positive in June 2017,
but she claimed that she had eleven months of sobriety after
she was released from prison. She stated that she used drugs
twice in August 2017 and that she had not used drugs since
she had been in rehab, which she intended to complete. She
said that her trial date ...