FROM THE LOGAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SOUTHERN DISTRICT [NO.
42BJV-17-4] HONORABLE TERRY SULLIVAN, JUDGE
Bowers Lee, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
KENNETH S. HIXSON, JUDGE
Leslie Harley appeals from the termination of her parental
rights to her daughter L.S., who was born on May 5,
2015. 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),
Leslie's counsel has filed a no-merit brief and a motion
to withdraw, asserting that there are no issues of arguable
merit to support an appeal and that she should be relieved as
counsel. A copy of Leslie's counsel's brief and
motion was mailed to Leslie, and after being informed of her
right to file pro se points, Leslie declined to file any
points. We affirm and grant appellant's counsel's
motion to be relieved.
review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo.
Dinkins v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 344 Ark.
207, 40 S.W.3d 286 (2001). At least one statutory ground must
exist, in addition to a finding that it is in the child's
best interest to terminate parental rights; these must be
proved by clear and convincing evidence. Ark. Code Ann.
§ 9-27-341(b)(3) (Supp. 2017); Mitchell v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 715, 430 S.W.3d
851. Clear and convincing evidence is that degree of proof
that will produce in the fact-finder a firm conviction as to
the allegation sought to be established. Gray v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 24. The
appellate inquiry is whether the trial court's finding
that the disputed fact was proved by clear and convincing
evidence is clearly erroneous. J.T. v. Ark. Dep't of
Human Servs., 329 Ark. 243, 947 S.W.2d 761 (1997). 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. Yarborough v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 96 Ark.App. 247, 240 S.W.3d 626 (2006).
January 17, 2017, appellee Arkansas Department of Human
Services (DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody of L.S.
Attached to the petition was an affidavit of a DHS caseworker
stating that DHS had exercised a 72-hour hold on the child
after Leslie was found highly intoxicated in a ditch digging
for arrowheads. Leslie did not know where L.S. was, and L.S.
was passed around from person to person before the police
located her several hours later. Leslie was arrested for
public intoxication and endangering the welfare of a minor.
The affidavit further stated that Leslie's parental
rights had been involuntarily terminated as to L.S.'s
older sibling, M.S. On the same day that DHS's petition
was filed, the trial court entered an ex parte order of
emergency custody of L.S. The trial court subsequently
entered a probable-cause order.
February 21, 2017, the trial court entered an adjudication
order finding L.S. dependent-neglected based on Leslie's
stipulation that L.S. was subjected to inadequate
supervision. Leslie was ordered to complete parenting
classes, submit to drug screening, submit to a
drug-and-alcohol assessment, submit to a psychological
evaluation, complete counseling, obtain and maintain income
sufficient to support herself and the child, and visit the
child regularly. The goal of the case was reunification.
review order was entered on May 16, 2017, wherein the trial
court found that Leslie had been only minimally compliant
with the case plan. The trial court found that Leslie had not
had a drug-and-alcohol assessment, had failed to attend
counseling, had not completed parenting classes, and was
unemployed. The trial court did, however, find that Leslie
had been visiting the child regularly and had tested negative
on drug screens.
second review order was entered on September 9, 2017. In that
order, the trial court found that Leslie had not complied
with the case plan, was unemployed, had not completed
parenting classes, had a suspended license and owed $5000 in
fines, and had pending criminal charges. The trial court
further found that Leslie had missed most of her visits with
L.S. and had tested positive for methamphetamine on July 24,
2017. The goal of the case was changed to termination of
filed a petition to terminate Leslie's parental rights on
September 26, 2017. In the petition, DHS alleged numerous
statutory grounds for termination and stated that Leslie had
stopped regularly visiting the child and had totally quit on
the case plan. DHS attached to its petition the previous
termination order, filed on December 21, 2015, wherein
Leslie's parental rights to L.S.'s older sibling,
M.S., had been terminated. In the previous termination order,
Leslie's parental rights to M.S. were terminated due to
Leslie's positive drug screens, unstable housing, general
lack of compliance, and abandonment of the child.
termination hearing, the trial court entered an order on
January 10, 2018, terminating Leslie's parental rights to
L.S. The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence
that termination of parental rights was in L.S.'s best
interest, and the trial court specifically considered the
likelihood of adoption, as well as the potential harm of
returning the child to the custody of her mother as required
by Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-341(b)(3)(A). The
trial court also found clear and convincing evidence of four
statutory grounds under subsection (b)(3)(B). Pursuant to
subsection (b)(3)(B)(iv), the trial court found that Leslie
had abandoned the juvenile. Under subsection
(b)(3)(B)(vii)(a), the trial court found that other
factors or issues arose subsequent to the filing of the
original petition for dependency-neglect that demonstrated
that placement of the juvenile in the custody of the parent
was contrary to the juvenile's health, safety, or welfare
and that, despite the offer of appropriate family services,
the parent had manifested the incapacity or indifference to
remedy those issues or factors or rehabilitate the
parent's circumstances that prevent the placement of the
juvenile in the custody of the parent. Under subsection
(b)(3)(B)(ix)(a)(3), the trial court found that
Leslie had subjected the juvenile to aggravated circumstances
because there was little likelihood that services to the
family would result in successful reunification. Finally,
pursuant to subsection (b)(3)(B)(ix)(a)(4), the
trial court found that Leslie had previously had her parental
rights involuntarily terminated as to a sibling of L.S.
caseworker Pamela Feemster testified at the termination
hearing. Ms. Feemster stated that although Leslie
participated in the development of the case plan, there had
been minimal progress or compliance. According to Ms.
Feemster, Leslie had not completed a psychological evaluation
or adequately participated in counseling services. Nor did
Leslie complete a drug-and-alcohol assessment or parenting
classes. Ms. Feemster stated that Leslie had missed ten of
the last twelve scheduled visits with L.S. and that three of
these missed visits were the result of failed drug screens.
On the day of the termination hearing, Leslie tested positive
for prescription drugs without a prescription.
sentencing order was admitted showing that Leslie had
recently pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a
minor, for which she received a two-year suspended sentence.
Ms. Feemster testified that a few weeks before the
termination hearing, Leslie was charged with the additional
offenses of reckless ...