FROM THE GRANT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 27JV-16-81]
HONORABLE EDDY EASLEY, JUDGE.
Lightle, Raney, Streit & Streit, LLP, by: Jonathan R.
Streit, for appellant.
K. Howard, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
LARRYD. VAUGHT, JUDGE.
Guardado appeals the Grant County Circuit Court's order
terminating her parental rights to five of her six children,
R.M., L.M., E.G., L.G., and J.G. We affirm.
April 26, 2016, the Arkansas Department of Human Services
(DHS) took emergency custody of thirteen-year-old twins R.M.
and L.M., ten-year-old E.G., nine-year-old L.G., and
two-year-old J.G. due to neglect, educational neglect,
inadequate shelter, and Guardado's drug use. The court
subsequently adjudicated the children dependent-neglected
based on neglect and parental unfitness, which was in part
based on the fact that Guardado tested positive for
amphetamines and methamphetamine. The court also found that
Guardado had been arrested on felony charges on the day of
the adjudication hearing, lacked stable housing, and had made
false statements to the court.
court held review hearings in November 2016 and February
2017, after both of which the court found Guardado in
substantial compliance with the case plan. Guardado was
granted overnight visitation with her children until a
maltreatment allegation arose against Guardado's live-in
boyfriend, Yengenis Antonio Vallejo Martinez
("Tony"). The court then entered a no-contact order
prohibiting Tony from being around the children. Following a
permanency-planning hearing in March 2017, the court found
that Guardado was in substantial compliance with the case
plan but also found that she had suffered a
"setback" due to relying on others for financial
support. The court ordered that Guardado show financial
stability and provide DHS with her pay stubs and work
several continuances, the court held a fifteen-month review
hearing in September 2017. The court found that although
Guardado had made measurable progress on the case plan, she
had failed to attend the trauma therapy that had been
recommended for her in July 2017, and she lacked financial
stability sufficient to care for her children. The court
continued the goal of reunification but ordered Guardado to
comply with trauma therapy and show financial stability by
obtaining employment to help provide for her children. The
court subsequently ordered Guardado to seek child-support
arrearages owed to her, which she did.
December 13, 2017, the court authorized DHS to file a
petition to terminate Guardado's parental rights, which
it filed on January 3. The petition alleged that termination
was appropriate under several grounds: "failure to
provide significant material support" pursuant to
Arkansas Code Annotated section
9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(ii)(a) (Supp. 2017); "failure
to remedy" pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section
factors" pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section
9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(vii)(a); and "aggravated
circumstances" pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated
court held a termination hearing on April 30, 2018. Following
the hearing, the court entered an order terminating
Guardado's parental rights. The court found that
Guardado's testimony at the hearing was not credible,
especially as to her relationship with Tony. The evidence
revealed that Tony's name was still on the lease for
Guardado's apartment; her only form of transportation was
his car, which she claimed he had given her; and she
continued to rely on Tony and her family to support her
financially. Moreover, Guardado had another child with Tony
during the pendency of the case. The court also found that
Guardado still lacked stable and adequate income and housing,
did not have an appropriate childcare plan should the
children be returned to her custody, lacked stable
transportation, had not consistently visited the children,
had not provided support for the children, had not complied
with court-ordered trauma therapy, continued to rely on
friends and family to resolve her financial problems, had
been arrested twice during the pendency of the case for
failure to pay court fines, and had not complied with the
case plan. The court also found that the children are
adoptable, that returning them to Guardado's custody
would pose a risk to their health and safety, and that
termination is in their best interest.
standard of review in appeals of termination of parental
rights is de novo, but we reverse a circuit court's
decision to terminate parental rights only when it is clearly
erroneous. Ullom v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs.,
340 Ark. 615, 12 S.W.3d 204 (2000); Mitchell v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 715, 430 S.W.3d
851; Brewer v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 71
Ark.App. 364, 43 S.W.3d 196 (2001). A finding is clearly
erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, the
reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with a
distinct and firm conviction that a mistake was made.
Wade v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 337 Ark.
353, 990 S.W.2d 509 (1999); Knuckles v. Ark. Dep't of
Human Servs., 2015 Ark.App. 463, 469 S.W.3d 377;
Hopkins v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 79
Ark.App. 1, 83 S.W.3d 418 (2002).
challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the
court's findings that DHS adequately proved four
independent statutory grounds for termination. We have
repeatedly held that DHS need only prove one ground for
termination, so we must affirm if the evidence supports at
least one of the statutory grounds at issue in this case.
Martin v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2016
Ark.App. 521, at 11, 504 S.W.3d 628, 635.
Code Annotated section 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(ix)(a)(3)
establishes a statutory ground for the termination of
parental rights when "[a] determination has been made by
a judge that there is little likelihood that services to the
family will result in successful reunification." Ark.
Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(ix)(a)(3).
Guardado does not contest the court's finding that there
is little likelihood that additional family services would
result in successful reunification; her only argument is that
the circuit court erred in finding that DHS had provided
meaningful services throughout the case. This argument has no
merit. We have previously held that "a finding of
aggravated circumstances does not require that DHS prove that
meaningful services toward reunification were provided."
Willis v. Ark. Dep't of HumanServs.,
2017 Ark.App. 559, at 9, 538 S.W.3d 842, 849 (citing
Draper v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2012
Ark.App. 112, 389 S.W.3d 58). Because Guardado has raised no