FROM THE POINSETT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 56JV-15-104]
HONORABLE RALPH WILSON, JR., JUDGE
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 ...