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Jones v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

May 29, 2019



          Montgomery & Burke, by: Wm. Blake Montgomery and Jim A. Burke, for appellant.

          Andrew Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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


         Appellant Brianna Jones appeals an order by the Hempstead County Circuit Court terminating her parental rights to her daughters, S.B. and K.J. On appeal, Jones argues that the circuit court erred in terminating her parental rights because the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) failed to meet its burden of proof. We affirm.[1]

         On September 6, 2016, the juveniles were removed from the physical and legal custody of Jones after their nine-day-old sibling, A.J., suffered an unexplained cranial fracture and died. K.J. had bug bites all over her arms, face, and legs, and her feet were blackened because she had no shoes. The home was filthy with piles of dirt, debris, unclean dishes, old food, urine and dog feces, condom packages, and trash. Tobacco, open chemicals, and firearms were all within the children's reach. DHS assumed emergency custody over then four-year-old S.B. and two-year-old K.J. Jones had an extensive history with DHS, including a true finding for environmental neglect in 2012 and a previous dependency-neglect case from 2013-2015.

         On November 3, 2016, the circuit court adjudicated S.B. and K.J. dependent-neglected on the basis of Jones's stipulation to neglect and parental unfitness. The circuit court found Jones's "failure to provide a shelter that does not pose a risk or safety hazard to the juveniles" was a basis for its decision. The goal of the case was set as reunification, and Jones was ordered to participate in parenting classes, submit to random drug screens, and participate in counseling and homemaking services.

         At the December 8, 2016 hearing, the circuit court found Jones in partial compliance with the case plan in that she had been visiting the children and her drug screens were negative, but she had not yet completed counseling. The court also ordered Jones to undergo a psychological assessment. Dr. Betty Feir conducted the psychological evaluation of Jones and concluded that Jones had possible borderline personality and bipolar disorders, and had long-standing problems with DHS. Jones was also diagnosed by a counselor "with adjustment disorder, with mixed anxiety and depressed mood." Dr. Feir recommended that Jones's parental rights be terminated because she did not appear to be capable of parenting and did not have the emotional or mental capacity to safely care for her children.

         A review order was entered on February 13, 2017, after the court held a hearing on February 9. The circuit court found Jones had been visiting with the children, had tested negative on drug screens, had participated in individual counseling, and had completed the psychological evaluation. However, the cleanliness of Jones's home remained an issue, and the court ordered that unsupervised visits with the children could not begin until Jones demonstrated that she could maintain a safe, clean, and appropriate home for herself and her children.

         Another review hearing was held on May 11, 2017, and the court found that Jones had continued to abuse illegal substances and had not participated in any form of substance-abuse treatment. Jones also admitted having been involved in a romantic relationship with a man with whom she had a history of abusing drugs and alcohol, and who was, at the time of the hearing, being detained in the Hempstead County jail.

         At the review hearing on July 20, 2017, the court found that Jones had complied with the case plan in that she had completed a psychological evaluation, drug assessment, parenting classes, inpatient drug treatment, submitted to random drug screens, participated in home-maker services and counseling, and had visited the children regularly. The court also noted that Jones's home had recently been in a more appropriate condition for the children's habitation. Specifically, the court wrote that it "would like to see the mother sustain her sobriety and the appropriateness of her home."

         Jones's home burned down the next month, and on August 17, Jones tested positive for amphetamines, methamphetamine, and cocaine. After her home burned, Jones stayed with her ex-boyfriend's mother.

         On September 14, 2017, the court held a permanency-planning hearing, just over a year after the children's removal from Jones's home. The court found that while Jones had completed some services, she had also "tested positive for illegal substances throughout much of the case" and "recently tested positive for illegal substances again." In the months that followed, Jones continued to decline. She again tested positive for amphetamine and methamphetamine on December 6, 2017, and three weeks later--on December 27, tested positive for amphetamine. In a report filed on January 11, 2018, the court-appointed special advocate stated that she had ...

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