FROM THE CONWAY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 15JV-16-89]
HONORABLE TERRY SULLIVAN, JUDGE
Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
W. GRUBER, CHIEF JUDGE
White appeals from the Conway County Circuit Court's
order terminating her parental rights to her daughter RW,
born June 2, 2011, and placing RW in the permanent custody of
her father, Ricardo Martinez. On appeal, appellant contends
that termination was not in RW's best interest and was in
contravention of Arkansas Code Annotated section
9-27-341(a)(3) (Supp. 2017) because permanency was achieved
in this case through placement with RW's father. We find
no error and affirm the circuit court's order.
case began on November 22, 2016, when the Arkansas Department
of Human Services (DHS) took emergency custody of RW after
police discovered appellant intoxicated and walking down the
middle of the highway at night in the rain with RW. Appellant
was arrested for public intoxication and endangering the
welfare of a minor. A subsequent drug test at the Conway
County jail was positive for THC. In an order entered on
January 27, 2017, the circuit court adjudicated RW
dependent-neglected due to neglect and parental unfitness,
inadequate supervision, and failure to protect. The court
ordered appellant to submit to random drug screens; obtain
and maintain stable and appropriate housing and employment;
complete parenting classes; attend counseling; submit to a
drug-and-alcohol assessment and complete any recommended
treatment; submit to a psychological evaluation and comply
with its recommendations; and attend NA/AA meetings twice
each month. The goal was reunification with RW. The court
also ordered Mr. Martinez to submit to random drug screens;
submit to a drug-and-alcohol assessment and complete any
recommended treatment; complete parenting classes; and pay
$84 a week in child support.
review order entered on May 15, 2017, the court found that
appellant had continued to test positive for THC and had been
discharged from parenting classes for excessive absences. The
court also expressed concern with appellant's
"combativeness and argumentative nature" and
ordered her to participate in anger-management classes. The
court found that Mr. Martinez was complying with the case
plan, actively participating in visits, and bonding with RW,
but the court noted that he had tested positive for THC.
2017, the court entered an order granting DHS's request
to allow Mr. Martinez to have unsupervised weekend
visitations. It found that he had been visiting with RW
weekly, unsupervised; was gainfully employed; had maintained
stable and appropriate housing; had actively and consistently
participated in visitation; and had consistently tested
negative for THC. A month later, after a review hearing on
August 24, 2017, the court awarded temporary custody to Mr.
Martinez. In the review order, the court also found that
appellant was unfit and that she could not protect RW's
health and safety. The court found that appellant had not
complied with the case plan and orders of the court,
specifically finding that she had been unwilling to complete
drug-treatment recommendations and that she remained
"erratic" and "uncooperative" with DHS.
The court relieved DHS of providing further services to
appellant and changed the goal of the case to placement of RW
in the permanent custody of Mr. Martinez.
November 16, 2017, the court conducted a permanency-planning
hearing, after which it found that it was no longer in
RW's best interest to participate in visitation with
appellant. The court's order set the goal as permanent
custody with Mr. Martinez, and DHS filed a petition to
terminate appellant's rights that same day.
February 15, 2018, the court held a termination hearing.
Michelle Mallett, the DHS worker assigned to the case,
testified that it was in RW's best interest for
appellant's parental rights to be terminated due to her
erratic nature and instability. She testified that appellant
had threatened to take RW and "run off with her"
and opined that for RW to have safety and security with her
father, there needed to be a legal severing of RW's
relationship with appellant. Ms. Mallett described
interactions with appellant as combative and said that she
regularly became agitated with persons providing services,
attorneys, therapists, and other authority figures. She
testified that appellant had tested positive for THC a dozen
times before DHS quit testing her because she refused to be
screened. She said that appellant had never received a
negative drug screen when tested. Appellant completed a
drug-and-alcohol assessment, but she refused the recommended
residential treatment. Ms. Mallett also stated that appellant
was ordered to participate in counseling but had been
discharged by the therapist for noncompliance. According to
Ms. Mallett, the therapist had also refused a subsequent
request by DHS to work with appellant. Finally, she said that
appellant never had unsupervised visitation with RW.
Regarding Mr. Martinez, Ms. Mallett testified that he had
completed the case plan as ordered and had changed jobs in
order to be able to care for RW.
Ms. Mallett's testimony, DHS introduced certified court
orders from New Mexico concerning appellant's three older
children, who had been living with their father in Santa Fe
since June 2014. In an order entered on December 7, 2016,
while this case was ongoing, the New Mexico court found the
It appears that it is difficult for Mother to communicate
with Father civilly regarding Father and the children. Father
presented numerous text messages that were sent from Mother
to Father that are derogatory in nature and border on
violation of the Family Violence Protection Act. The text
messages sent by Mother to Father also contain veiled threats
regarding Mother's demise. In addition, the messages
focus on Mother's concerns of having to pay Father child
March 3, 2017, the New Mexico court entered an order of
protection on behalf of appellant's children and their
father against appellant. In the order, the court found that
appellant had called to speak to the children on December 17,
2016, stating that she was not going to exercise her
visitation. According to the court, "She called one
child a little s*** and a little f*****," and she sent a