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Corley v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

September 5, 2018



          Lightle, Raney, Streit & Streit, LLP, by: Jonathan R. Streit, for appellants.

          Andrew Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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


         Rose Corley and Joey Bilbrey appeal the November 29, 2017 order of the Garland County Circuit Court terminating their parental rights to their four children, twins AB and EB (d.o.b. 1/15/15), MB (d.o.b. 8/13/13), and GB (d.o.b. 10/29/10). They argue the lower court erred in finding that grounds existed for termination and that termination was in the best interest of the children. We affirm.

         I. Facts

         This case began on September 7, 2016, when the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) received a report of environmental neglect through the child-abuse hotline. The affidavit included with the petition for removal alleged that when DHS made an unannounced visit to the home, the floors were covered in trash, dirty clothes, and animal feces. There were no diapers for the younger children, and both parents tested positive for methamphetamine, MDMA, and opiates. The oldest child, GB (then six), tested positive for methamphetamine. DHS exercised a seventy-two-hour hold on the four children.

         The case progressed through emergency and probable-cause hearings with corresponding findings and orders entered. On November 18, 2016, the children were adjudicated dependent-neglected based on environmental neglect and parental unfitness because of the parents' illegal substance abuse. The parents were ordered to comply with the case plan, which required that they refrain from drug use; submit to random drug screens; complete parenting classes; attend individual- and family-counseling sessions; maintain stable and appropriate housing, income, and transportation; and complete psychological and drug-and-alcohol assessments and all recommended treatment.

         Two review hearings were held, one on February 22, 2017, and the other on May 10, 2017. At the permanency-planning hearing on August 23, 2017, the trial court found that the parents had not made significant and measurable progress toward reunification and changed the goal from reunification to termination of parental rights. On September 22, 2017, DHS filed a petition to terminate parental rights, alleging the grounds of twelve months failure to remedy, Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(i)(a) (Supp. 2017), and subsequent factors, Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(vii)(a).

         The termination hearing took place on November 29, 2017. Family service worker Jamie Moran testified that the parents did have some compliance during the case but that Corley never sought employment during the case and that both parents tested positive for amphetamines and methamphetamine the week before the termination hearing. Moran testified that Corley never submitted to outpatient drug treatment. She testified that Bilbrey never submitted to a drug-and-alcohol assessment or completed any outpatient or inpatient drug treatment. She testified that the parents never progressed to the point that their visitation could be unsupervised.

         Kelsey Lewis, GB's therapist, testified. Because of GB's behavioral issues, she recommended that visits stop in November 2016. However, the parents were participating and engaged in family therapy with GB. Lewis testified that as of the date of the termination hearing, if GB were to return home with his parents, he would be at risk of continued neglect and emotional distress. The trial court also received testimony from DHS's adoption specialist that the children are adoptable but that there was no guarantee that the siblings would be adopted together.

         Catherine Francioni, Bilbrey's employer, testified. She indicated that Bilbrey had been an employee of hers for two years. He was dependable. He was working roughly thirty-six hours a week making ten dollars an hour and that his employment was stable.

         Finally, Corley testified. She admitted that drugs had impacted her housekeeping chores in the beginning of the case. She testified that there were only two instances when she tested positive for drugs: at removal and shortly before the termination hearing. Corley testified that she had told her caseworker that she wanted substance-abuse treatment but that the Quapaw House had indicated it had not yet been ...

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