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Riggs v. Arkansas Dept. of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

April 3, 2019

Nicole RIGGS, Appellant
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES and Minor Children, Appellees

Page 130

          APPEAL FROM THE FAULKNER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 23JV-17-131], HONORABLE DAVID M. CLARK, JUDGE

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

          One brief only.

          OPINION

         RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge

          Appellant Nicole Riggs appeals a Faulkner County Circuit Court order terminating her parental rights to her children, B.S. and M.S. 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) (2018), Riggs’s counsel has filed a motion to withdraw and a no-merit brief asserting that there are no issues of arguable merit to support an appeal. The clerk of our court sent copies of the brief and the motion to withdraw to Riggs’s last-known address, informing her of her right to file pro se points for reversal pursuant to Rule 6-9(i)(3). The packet was returned, marked "unclaimed-unable to forward-return to sender." Riggs has not filed any pro se points for reversal. We affirm the termination of parental rights and grant counsel’s motion to withdraw.

          This case began when the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) exercised an emergency hold on Riggs’s children on April 27, 2017. In its petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect,

Page 131

DHS stated that the children were dependent-neglected as a result of abuse or parental unfitness. But in the attached affidavit, a DHS family-service worker stated that the hold was taken because of Riggs’s substance abuse, environmental neglect, parental unfitness, and neglect. The circuit court entered an ex parte order for emergency custody on May 1, 2017, with an amended order entered on May 3, 2017.

          The circuit court held a probable-cause hearing on May 3, 2017, and a week later, it entered an order finding that probable cause existed at the time of the removal and continued to exist, such that the children should remain in the custody of DHS. In this order, the circuit court also noted that Riggs and the children had membership in, or were descendants of, an Indian tribe— specifically, that Riggs was a member of the Cherokee Tribe.

          On June 20, 2017, the circuit court held an adjudication hearing and entered an adjudication-and-disposition order that same day. This order reflected that there was a representative from the Cherokee Tribe present, and the circuit court adjudicated the children dependent-neglected due to parental drug use resulting in parental unfitness and environmental neglect. Riggs was ordered to, among other things, submit to a psychological evaluation, participate in counseling as recommended by a therapist, refrain from illegal drug use, submit to a drug-and-alcohol assessment, complete parenting classes, and obtain and maintain stable housing and employment. The circuit court set the goal of the case as reunification with a concurrent goal of adoption.

          A review order was entered on September 19, 2017, following a hearing that same day. Therein, the circuit court found that Riggs had substantially complied with the court orders and case plan. The goal of the case continued as reunification as did the concurrent goal of adoption. The order indicated that a member of the Cherokee Tribe was again present at the hearing.

          A second review hearing was held on December 19, 2017, and an order was entered that day. The order reflected that the representative from the Cherokee Tribe was excused at his request. The circuit court continued the goal of reunification with a concurrent goal of adoption and found that Riggs had substantially complied with the case plan and court orders and had made much progress toward alleviating or mitigating the cause of the children’s removal.

          On February 27, 2018, the circuit court held another review hearing and entered an order that same day. In the order, the circuit court continued the concurrent goals, although it found that Riggs had failed to comply with the case plan and court orders, as she had been arrested on new felony drug charges and was incarcerated. However, the circuit court did ...


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