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Glover v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

May 15, 2019



          Tina Bowers Lee, 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 child.

          WAYMONDM.BROWN, Judge.

         Appellant appeals from the circuit court's order terminating her parental rights to B.G., [1] born 06/13/2017.[2] On appeal, she argues that (1) there was insufficient evidence to support the grounds on which her rights were terminated and (2) termination was not in B.G.'s best interest. We affirm.

         There was already an open protective-services case after there was a true finding for prenatal exposure to B.G. who was born testing positive for amphetamine, benzodiazepine, and buprenorphine. Appellant had also tested positive for THC, amphetamine, benzodiazepine, and buprenorphine.

         A visit was made to appellant's home to assess the safety of B.G. on September 19, 2017. A call had been made to family services worker (FSW) Jordan Jackson on September 17, 2017, regarding statements appellant made about her being scared to leave B.G. with his father, Joe Franks. During the visit, appellant admitted saying that Franks picked up B.G. and "screamed and yelled into his face until the point that he turns red" and said "[y]our mother loves you more than me; but I love her more than you." However, she asserted that the workers "took it out of context." Additionally, appellant tested positive for "Amp; Bup and Meth." Appellant stated that it was a false positive due to her Adderall medication, but she did not elect to contest the results.

         Appellant then made some calls after which Franks entered the home and an altercation between Franks and the FSWs began. The FSWs called 911 and while they were trying to get to safety outside the home, appellant got in a vehicle with B.G. and left. When appellant left, she left her urine sample in the home out of her sight, so the sample was not able to be contested. Two FSWs followed appellant for about two miles before she returned to the home and went inside. Appellant did not have a valid driver's license and B.G. was not in a car seat. An Officer Baldwin was at the home when they returned. Unable to get Franks to calm down, to persuade appellant to come out of the house, or to get the FSWs into the home, Officer Baldwin called for assistance, and Sergeant Page arrived shortly thereafter.

         Once the FSWs gained entry into the house with the assistance of law enforcement and waited on appellant to gather B.G.'s things, appellant was advised by law enforcement that she needed to turn B.G. and his things over to the FSWs. Appellant declined to do so asserting that she had to call her father. Officer Baldwin then made appellant give B.G. and his things to Sergeant Page, who in turn gave the same to FSW Sharlow. A seventy-two-hour hold was placed on B.G.

         The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition for ex parte emergency custody and dependency neglect on September 20, 2017, alleging that B.G. was dependent neglected as a result of neglect and parental unfitness. An ex parte order granting the petition was entered on September 21, 2017.

         A probable-cause order was entered on September 28, 2017. It noted that the parents stipulated to the existence of probable cause for B.G.'s removal. DHS was ordered to arrange one hour of supervised visitation three times a week and two hours of supervised visitation on Saturday at the discretion of the foster parents, who were to supervise the visitation "within sight and sound[.]" Appellant was ordered to participate in a number of services at DHS's expense, including but not limited to individual and family counseling; and random drug screens. She was also ordered to remain drug free; complete a drug-and-alcohol assessment, following its recommendations; and maintain stable housing and stable income. A CASA volunteer was appointed to the case as well. Chris and Leslie Schmeckenbecher were present-as they would be at nearly all future hearings-and identified as "aunt/uncle foster parents."[3]

         The circuit court entered an adjudication order on November 1, 2017. Therein, the circuit court noted that this was not the family's first contact with DHS as there had been referrals for "Neglect-Newborn illegal substance" against appellant that resulted in a protective-services case that was still open when the seventy-two-hour hold was taken. The circuit court found by a preponderance of the evidence that B.G. was dependent-neglected specifically due to failure to protect and drug use. The goal of the case was reunification.

         In its January 30, 2018 review order, the goal of the case was still reunification, but the concurrent goal of relative placement was added. DHS was found to have made reasonable efforts to provide services and finalized the permanency plan to achieve the goal.[4] In addition to its previously ordered services, the circuit court made the following specific orders:

8. The parents are ordered to cooperate with [DHS] and follow the case plan. The parents will not use or possess controlled substances which are not prescribed to them, are subject to random drug screens and will provide a proper sample when requested to do so, and shall obtain a drug/alcohol assessment and follow its recommendations. The parents shall submit to a hair follicle drug screen and the request of [DHS]. Willful failure to obey this court's orders is punishable, upon a finding of contempt, by fine, imprisonment, both, or other sanctions imposed by the court.
9. Further Order: Both parents shall take another hair follicle test. Pending the results of the hair follicle test, the Court then shall make a decision to increase visitation. Both parents are to comply with the Orders of the Case Plan including the outpatient drug treatment.

         In its May 1, 2018 review order, the goal of the case remained the same, and supervised visitation was increased to two hours per visit, three times a week.[5] Visitation was to be supervised by DHS.[6] Appellant was ordered to complete another drug and alcohol assessment and submit to a nail drug test, the latter of which DHS was ordered to make a referral for within ten days of the hearing. Appellant was also ordered to sign a medical release for her medicine management.

         In the circuit court's review order entered August 1, 2018, the goal of the case and the scheduled visitation remained the same. DHS was ordered to do weekly random drug and alcohol screens on appellant. Furthermore, appellant was ordered to "redo all [her] drug and alcohol class from RCA that Mr. Green was associated with including assessment. All individual/group class shall not include Mr. Green." There appeared to have been some romantic involvement between appellant and Zack Green, who was also the drug counselor for both her and Franks.[7]

         DHS and B.G.'s attorney ad litem filed a joint petition to terminate appellant's parental rights on September 6, 2018, citing the following as grounds for termination:

1. That a juvenile has been adjudicated by the court to be dependent-neglected and has continued to be out of the custody of the parent for twelve (12) months and, despite a meaningful effort by the department to rehabilitate the parent and correct the conditions that caused removal, those conditions have not been remedied by the parent;[8] and
2. That other factors or issues arose subsequent to the filing of the original petition for dependency-neglect that demonstrate that placement of the juvenile in the custody of the parent is contrary to the juvenile's health, safety, or welfare and that, despite the offer of appropriate family services, the parent has manifested the incapacity or indifference to remedy the subsequent issues or factors or ...

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