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Arazola v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

February 20, 2019

Irasema ARAZOLA, Appellant
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES and Minor Child, Appellees

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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          APPEAL FROM THE CRAIGHEAD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, WESTERN DISTRICT [NO. 1617-232], HONORABLE CYNDY THYER, JUDGE

         Tina Bowers Lee, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

         Ellen K. Howard, Jonesboro, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

         OPINION

         BART F. VIRDEN, Judge

          Irasema Arazola appeals the Craighead County Circuit Court order awarding permanent-relative custody of two of her minor children to their grandparents, Gabriel and Emma Garfias. We affirm.

          I. Relevant Facts

          On June 25, 2017, the Arkansas Department of Human Services ("Department") exercised an emergency hold on Arazola’s three children, AF (11/18/02), AA (9/20/10), and CA (3/27/09). In the emergency petition, the Department asserted that it had received a phone call from the Jonesboro Police Department in regard to an allegation of sexual abuse of CA by Arazola’s boyfriend, Francisco Cordova. The children’s maternal aunt made the allegation, and all three children confirmed the aunt’s claim that Cordova had touched CA’s genitals. Investigator Leann Vannan and family service worker Tina Green went to the home to conduct a safety assessment. When questioned, Arazola denied that Cordova had sexually abused CA; however, she reluctantly agreed to a protection plan. Arazola submitted to drug testing, which she passed, though she admitted using marijuana. Guns were found in the home, and Arazola claimed that they belonged to her and not Cordova. The serial numbers on the guns matched those that had been reported stolen, and both Arazola and Cordova were arrested. An emergency hold was placed on the children for suspected sexual abuse and for failure to adequately supervise. On June 29, 2017, the circuit court entered an ex parte order for emergency custody based on the allegations in the affidavit.

          On July 14, 2017, the circuit court entered a probable-cause order in which it found that the removal of the juveniles from Arazola’s custody was necessary to protect their safety and that it was in the best interest of the children to remain in the custody of the Department. Specifically, the circuit court found that the alleged sexual abuse, Arazola’s denial of the abuse, and her love for Cordova were concerning. Although Cordova was incarcerated at that time, the circuit court found that it would be harmful to the children if they were returned to Arazola because the lease to the family home was in Cordova’s name and he would return there on his release.

          On October 2, 2017, the circuit court entered an adjudication order stating the goal as reunification with Arazola with a concurrent goal of permanent-relative custody. The circuit court found by a preponderance of the evidence that the juveniles were dependent-neglected based on Arazola’s

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failure to take reasonable action to protect CA from sexual abuse perpetrated by Cordova. The court’s determination was also based on Arazola’s admission of drug use.

          On November 21, 2017, the circuit court entered a review order allowing Arazola to have visitation supervised by the Garfiases and finding that Arazola had complied with the case plan and the orders of the court. The circuit court ordered that trial home placement with AA and CA could begin, and it found that if things continued to go well in therapy, AF, ...


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