FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT
[NO. 66FJV-11-585], HONORABLE ANNIE POWELL HENDRICKS, JUDGE.
Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for
Dawnisha Covin appeals the order of the Sebastian County
Circuit Court terminating her parental rights to QJ
(11/09/06) and KJ (01/04/08). On appeal, Covin asserts that
termination was not in the childrens best interest because
the parental rights of the father, Keith Jarrett, were not
also terminated. We affirm.
begin our analysis with a recognition that termination of
parental rights is an extreme remedy and in derogation of the
natural rights of the parents. Crawford v. Ark. Dept of
Human Servs., 330 Ark. 152, 951 S.W.2d 310 (1997). We
review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo.
Dinkins v. Ark. Dept of Human Servs., 344 Ark. 207,
40 S.W.3d 286 (2001). In termination cases, the circuit court
must find by clear and convincing evidence that a parent is
unfit and that termination is in the best interest of the
child. J.T. v. Ark. Dept of Human Servs., 329 Ark.
243, 947 S.W.2d 761 (1997). This normally involves a two-step
analysis: (1) that the Arkansas Department of Human Services
("Department") prove one or more of the statutory
grounds for termination and (2) that the termination of
parental rights is in the childs best interest. Ark. Code
Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(A) & (B) (Supp. 2017). Because Covin
does not challenge the statutory grounds, we will address
only the best-interest portion of the analysis.
Best Interest of the Children
argues that the termination of her parental rights was not
necessary or essential to protect the best interest of the
children. We turn our attention to the best-interest evidence
before the circuit court.
January 3, 2017, the circuit court entered a petition for
emergency custody and dependency-neglect regarding QJ, KJ,
ZC, and DC. In the affidavit attached to the
petition, family-service worker Steven Trout recounted the
events leading up to the removal of the children from Covins
custody. On December 30, 2016, police requested that a
Department family-service worker go to Covins home. When
Trout arrived, police officers had already removed Covin from
the residence because she had become aggressive with an
officer. Officers informed Trout that Covins roommate called
police when Covin, who was a methamphetamine user and
appeared to be under the influence of amphetamines, grabbed a
baseball bat and began smashing furniture. When police
arrived at the apartment, they could hear the children crying
and Covin screaming and cursing. They heard a heavy glass
object hit the front door, and Covin shouted, "I dont
want no police kicking in my fucking door." Eventually,
Covin opened the door, and the officers could see broken
glass all around and the children huddled together on the
sofa. After a few questions from the police, Covin
"seemed to completely lose any control she had at that
point." She poked an officer in the chest when he tried
to examine a cut on one of the childrens hands, and after
taking "an aggressive posture" with an officer, she
was arrested. The children were very upset and afraid to
speak to family-service workers. At the detention center,
Trout attempted to interview Covin, but she was
confrontational and aggressive, and she refused a drug
screen. Covin was charged with four counts of first-degree
endangering the welfare of a minor, resisting arrest, and
second-degree assault. The Department alleged that the
childrens safety was in danger due to Covins violent and
dangerous behavior, her drug use, her refusal to be drug
screened, and her arrest, which left the children without a
same day the emergency petition was filed, the circuit court
entered an ex parte order for emergency custody and an order
finding that there was probable cause that emergency
conditions that necessitated the removal of the children from
Covins custody. Covin was ordered to stay in contact ...