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Hilburn v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

September 19, 2018

LAURA HILBURN APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72JV-17-976] HONORABLE STACEY ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE

          Lisa-Marie Norris, for appellant.

          Mary Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

          ROBERT J. GLADWIN, JUDGE

         Appellant Laura Hilburn appeals the January 25, 2018 adjudication order entered by the Washington County Circuit Court adjudicating her child, T.M., dependent-neglected. Hilburn argues that the evidence does not support the circuit court's finding that T.M. was dependent-neglected. We affirm.

         I. Facts

         Thirty-year-old Hilburn has given birth to eight children. Her parental rights as to the oldest two children previously have been terminated, and the remaining six-including one-year-old C.H. and newborn T.M.-are in foster care. On December 27, 2016, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (ADHS) removed five-day-old C.H. from Hilburn's custody. Three months later, the circuit court conducted an adjudication hearing at which time the circuit court found that, given Hilburn's methamphetamine addiction and usage, C.H. was dependent-neglected. During the six months that followed, ADHS performed drug screens on Hilburn at least seven times. She failed each screen, testing positive for THC on March 21; for methamphetamine, amphetamines, and THC on April 4, and June 9; for THC on June 27, August 4, and August 10; and for methamphetamine, amphetamines, and THC on September 6.

         Three months after Hilburn's last positive methamphetamine drug screen, she gave birth to T.M. on December 13, 2017. T.M. was not born with drugs in his system and does not seem to be suffering any adverse effects. Although Hilburn also tested negative at the time of T.M.'s delivery for any illegal substances, given her history of drug abuse coupled with her recent illegal drug use while pregnant, ADHS assumed emergency custody of two-day-old T.M.

         T.M. was removed from the hospital by ADHS on an emergency basis because of neglect and parental unfitness to the juvenile, a sibling, or other juvenile. The affidavit accompanying the order stated that Hilburn had used drugs throughout the pregnancy and had other terminations regarding her parental rights. One month later, the circuit court conducted an adjudication hearing in which it found that as a parent, Hilburn was unfit:

The Court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that [T.M.] is dependent/neglected as defined by the Arkansas Juvenile Code, as [T.M.] is at substantial risk of serious harm as a result of . . . [parental unfitness].
Such finding is based on the Court's determination, after considering the evidence presented at this hearing, that these allegations in the petition and affidavit are true and correct. Specifically, in the open foster care case of [T.M.'s] half-sibling, [C.H. (72JV-16-952)], Hilburn continued to test positive for illegal drugs-including methamphetamine-during the course of her pregnancy with [T.M.].
In the permanency planning hearing order from [72JV-16-952], and in the review hearing order from [72JV-16-952], the Court found that [Hilburn] tested positive for methamphetamine while she was pregnant with [T.M.] . . . .
The Court finds that [Hilburn] was using methamphetamine while knowingly pregnant with [T.M.]. [Hilburn] testified today that the last time she used methamphetamine was in September-[Hilburn] was approximately seven (7) months pregnant with [T.M.] at that time. [Hilburn] had (and has) another [dependency-neglect] case on sibling [C.H. (72JV-16-952)] which is open-[Hilburn] was [unreadable] is ...

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