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Williams v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

April 3, 2019

TINA MARIE WILLIAMS APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILDREN APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM THE POINSETT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 56JV-15-104] HONORABLE RALPH WILSON, JR., JUDGE

          Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

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

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

          KENNETH S. HIXSON, JUDGE.

         Appellant Tina Marie Williams appeals from the termination of her parental rights to her daughter K.P., born on 1/18/09, and her son J.W., born on 4/30/12. Tina's sole point on appeal is that the trial court erred when it failed to grant her oral motion for a continuance at the termination hearing. We affirm.

         The proceedings began on October 20, 2015, when appellee Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody of Tina's children. Attached to the petition was the affidavit of a family service worker stating that the children were removed from Tina's custody after K.P. had gone to school with a water bottle, reported by K.P. to contain her medicine, that tested positive for methamphetamine. On a subsequent drug screen, Tina tested positive for methamphetamine and oxycodone, and Tina admitted using methamphetamine four or five days earlier. The affidavit indicated that K.P.'s father is Christopher Pollard and J.W.'s father is Bruce Williams. On the same day the petition was filed, the trial court entered an order for emergency custody of the children. A probable-cause order followed.

         On November 13, 2015, the trial court entered an adjudication order adjudicating the children dependent-neglected. Tina was ordered to cooperate with DHS, complete parenting classes, maintain stable housing and employment, remain drug free and submit to random drug screens, submit to a drug-and-alcohol assessment and follow recommendations, and submit to a psychological evaluation. The trial court set the case goal as reunification.

         The case proceeded through multiple review and permanency-planning hearings. In a permanency-planning order entered on October 5, 2016, the trial court found that none of the parents had complied with the case plan or orders of the court, and the goal of the case was changed to termination of parental rights and adoption. In a permanency-planning order entered on October 18, 2017, the trial court found that Tina had not resolved her domestic-violence issues, had not completed a drug-and-alcohol assessment or drug treatment, and had no stable housing, transportation, or employment. In a review order entered on February 14, 2018, the trial court found that Tina had not complied with the case plan, had never completed a drug-treatment program, and continued to test positive for methamphetamine. DHS filed multiple petitions to terminate parental rights, the last of which was filed on January 19, 2018. There were several continuances, and the termination hearing was held on August 29, 2018.

         At the termination hearing, DHS represented that all three parents had been served notice of the hearing. Further discussion indicated that one of the fathers, Christopher Pollard, had never participated in the case. The attorney ad litem, DHS, and the trial court agreed that the termination would not proceed against the other father, Bruce Williams, because Bruce's attorney was not present.

         Tina was represented by counsel at the termination hearing, and prior to the hearing, Tina's counsel stated:

Tina Williams. Tina Williams. Tina Williams. Judge, it's now a little after 4 o'clock. Ms. Williams is not here at this time. She was here this morning, I talked to her about 9 o'clock, I told her we would get to the case sometime later today. I saw her here several times in the morning. After we broke for the noon recess, almost noon, I have not seen her since 1:30, since we returned from the noon recess. I will make an oral motion to well, number one to withdraw from representing her, she's not here. If that's denied I make an oral motion to continue the case since she's not here.

         The trial court denied Tina's counsel's motion to be relieved and denied her motion for a continuance. The termination hearing proceeded against Tina and Christopher Pollard.

         The sole witness to testify was DHS supervisor Amanda Baker, who was assigned to the case. Ms. Baker testified that DHS had offered extensive services to Tina, including substance-abuse programs and drug screens. Ms. Baker indicated that between May 2017 and March 2018, Tina had been in nine drug-rehabilitation programs but had failed to complete any of them. Tina did finish the inpatient portion of one of the programs but failed to follow up ...


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