FROM THE CRAWFORD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 17JV-17-115]
HONORABLE MICHAEL MEDLOCK, 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.
MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge.
Charles Joslin appeals the October 2018 order of the Crawford
County Circuit Court that terminated his parental rights to
his three daughters, KJ (born in 2002), AJ (born in 2004),
and EJ (born in 2006). Joslin does not challenge the circuit
court's finding that the Department of Human Services
(DHS) proved multiple statutory grounds on which to terminate
his parental rights. On appeal, Joslin challenges (1) the
circuit court's finding that termination of his parental
rights was in the children's best interest and (2) the
circuit court's evidentiary ruling that Joslin would not
be permitted to call EJ as a witness during the
termination-of-parental-rights hearing. We affirm.
to Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-341(b)(3) (Supp.
2017), an order forever terminating parental rights shall be
based on a finding by clear and convincing evidence that (1)
there are one or more statutory grounds and (2) it is in the
best interest of the juvenile, including consideration of the
likelihood that the juvenile will be adopted and the
potential harm to the health and safety of the child if
returned to the custody of the parent. We review
termination-of-parental-rights orders de novo but will not
reverse the circuit court's findings of fact unless they
are clearly erroneous. Harjo v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 2018 Ark.App. 268, 548 S.W.3d 865. A finding is
clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support
it, the appellate court is left on the entire evidence with
the firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.
Id. We must defer to the superior position of the
circuit court to weigh the credibility of the witnesses.
Ewasiuk v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2018
Ark.App. 59, 540 S.W.3d 318. On appellate review, this court
gives a high degree of deference to the circuit court, which
is in a far superior position to observe the parties before
it. Id. Termination of parental rights is an extreme
remedy and in derogation of the natural rights of parents,
but parental rights will not be enforced to the detriment or
destruction of the health and well-being of the child.
case, the circuit court found that there were multiple
statutory grounds on which to terminate Joslin's parental
rights, which Joslin does not challenge on
appeal. The circuit court also found that it was
in these children's best interest to terminate parental
rights. Under the umbrella of the children's best
interest, the circuit court specifically considered that the
girls were adoptable and found that there was potential harm
to the girls if their father was given custody. Joslin
concedes that the circuit court technically complied with the
mandate to consider these two best-interest factors. Joslin
argues, however, that the overall evidence does not support
that it is in the best interest of these girls to terminate
their father's rights and extinguish the familial
relationships. This, he argues, goes against the statutory
purpose in the Juvenile Code to "preserve and strengthen
the juvenile's family ties when it is in the best
interest of the juvenile" to do so. Ark. Code Ann.
§ 9-27-302(2)(A) (Repl. 2015). We are not left with a
distinct and firm impression that the circuit court made a
mistake in its findings on the children's best interest.
and EJ went into DHS custody after Joslin's arrest in May
2017 for domestic battery, domestic assault, public
intoxication, and interfering with emergency communications.
He was arrested because he hit all the girls, and he dragged
KJ on the floor by the hoodie she was wearing, which choked
Joslin had custody of AJ and EJ, so DHS took emergency
custody of those two children. Joslin's ex-wife had
custody of KJ, but DHS took emergency custody of KJ in June
2017 because the mother was using drugs, she left KJ with
improper supervision, and the home was in squalor. In July
2017, the paternal grandmother petitioned to intervene,
asserting she had been CJ's primary caretaker for most of
CJ's life, that her parents had a very limited
relationship with CJ, and that CJ should stay in the only
home she had ever known.
placed in the foster care of Glen Jorgensen and his wife, EJ
was placed with her maternal aunt Janice Stanier, and AJ was
placed sometimes with the Jorgensens and sometimes in a
sub-acute therapeutic facility. Over the next year, Joslin
was provided reunification services. Among other things,
Joslin was ordered to clear up his legal issues, attend
parenting and anger-management classes, go to drug
rehabilitation, provide child support, attend supervised
visits, and cooperate with DHS.
2018, it was apparent that the mother was not going to try to
reunify with the girls, and Joslin had made minimal progress.
In the May 2018 permanency-planning hearing, the circuit
court authorized DHS to file a petition to terminate parental
rights, and it set a concurrent goal of permanent placement
with a fit and willing relative and guardianship for one or
more of the children. The circuit court found that Joslin was
not making progress; he continued to show inappropriate
parenting techniques when he visited his children; he was
discharged from an inpatient treatment facility after an
altercation with another resident; he failed to contact DHS
after his discharge to reinstate a visitation schedule; he
did not submit to drug screens; he did not have stable
housing or a stable job; he had been incarcerated multiple
times; and he was uncooperative with DHS.
2018, DHS filed its petition to terminate parental rights.
The initial September 2018 setting for the termination
hearing was continued for three weeks at Joslin's request
so that he could complete a different drug-rehabilitation
program. The hearing was conducted approximately sixteen
months after the girls had been taken into DHS custody.
was still in drug rehabilitation; he had no home; he had been
in jail multiple times over the course of this case; he
pleaded guilty to domestic battery of KJ and to violating his
ex-wife's no-contact order. Joslin agreed that he had not
completed an array of the court's requirements, including
domestic-violence classes, drug rehabilitation, or parenting
classes. Joslin said that his drug of choice was opiate
pills, but he had not used drugs for six weeks. He had
attended some therapy and had begun taking an antidepressant
and anti-anxiety medication, but he acknowledged that
controlling his anger had been a big issue for him. Joslin is
a carpenter and believed that he could always find
employment. Joslin testified that his girls have a close
relationship with his mother and their younger sister CJ.
rehabilitation-facility case manager testified that Joslin
had been in his facility for about three weeks and had
embraced his treatment plan. The case manager expected him to
complete the program and then move ...