FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT
[NO. 66FJV-16-163], HONORABLE SHANNON L. BLATT, JUDGE
Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.
K. Howard, Jonesboro, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for
S. HIXSON, Judge
Appellant Anita Middleton appeals from the termination of her
parental rights to her children M.H., F.M., and B.M., who
range in age from nine to thirteen years old. On appeal,
Anita argues that the termination order should be reversed
because there was insufficient evidence that termination was
in the childrens best interest. We affirm.
review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo.
Mitchell v. Ark. Dept of Human Servs., 2013
Ark.App. 715, 430 S.W.3d 851. At least one statutory ground
must exist, in addition to a finding that is in the childs
best interest to terminate parental rights; these must be
proved by clear and convincing evidence. Ark. Code Ann. §
9-27-341 (Supp. 2017); M.T. v. Ark. Dept of Human
Servs., 58 Ark.App. 302, 952 S.W.2d 177 (1997). Clear
and convincing evidence is that degree of proof that will
produce in the factfinder a firm conviction as to the
allegation sought to be established. Anderson v.
Douglas, 310 Ark. 633, 839 S.W.2d 196 (1992). The
appellate inquiry is whether the trial courts finding that
the disputed fact was proved by clear and convincing evidence
is clearly erroneous. J.T. v. Ark. Dept 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. Dept of Human Servs.,
96 Ark.App. 247, 240 S.W.3d 626 (2006).
case began when appellee Arkansas Department of Human
Services (DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody of the
children on March 28, 2016. An attached affidavit of a
family-service worker stated that the Fort Smith Police
Department had called DHS and reported that Anita had been
arrested on drug charges. Anita was stopped by the police for
not having tags on her vehicle as she was leaving a motel.
Drugs and drug paraphernalia were found in the vehicle. Anita
informed the police that F.M. and B.M. were in a motel room
with a babysitter. The babysitter was also arrested. M.H. was
at the house of a family friend. DHS took an emergency hold
of the children. Anita was arrested for possession of
methamphetamine with purpose to deliver, possession of
marijuana with purpose to deliver, and possession of drug
March 28, 2016, the trial court entered an ex parte order for
emergency custody of the children. In the emergency order,
the trial court found that due to Anitas arrest, the
children were left with no legal caregiver and that removal
of the children from their mother was necessary to protect
their health and safety. A probable-cause
order was entered on April 20, 2016.
trial court entered an adjudication order on September 14,
2016, finding the children to be dependent-neglected. The
trial court noted in the adjudication order that Anita
remained incarcerated on drug charges. The goal of the case
was reunification. Anita was ordered to contact DHS upon her
release from jail; maintain stable housing, income, and
transportation; submit to random drug screens; submit to a
drug-and-alcohol assessment and complete any recommended
treatment; achieve and maintain total sobriety; and resolve
her pending criminal charges and comply with the terms and
conditions of any criminal sentence.
December 30, 2016, the trial court entered a review order
finding that Anita remained incarcerated and that the goal of
the case remained reunification. On March 21, 2017, the trial
court entered a permanency-planning order and determined the
goal of the case to be concurrent goals of reunification and
adoption. In the permanency-planning order, the trial court
noted that Anita expected to be released from prison in April
July 17, 2017, the trial court entered a fifteen-month review
order. In that order, the trial court found that there were
compelling reasons to continue the goal of reunification
because Anita had made remarkable progress since her release
from prison and was participating in the Restore Hope
drug-rehabilitation program. The trial court found that Anita
had been complying with the case plan and was diligently
working toward reunification. The trial court found that
Anita shall have extended visitation with M.H. and B.M.
beginning immediately; Anita was granted visitation with
these children for two consecutive nights to coincide with
Anitas work schedule in the home of ...