FROM THE POPE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 58JV-18-68] HONORABLE
KENNETH D. COKER, JR., JUDGE
Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.
KENNETH S. HIXSON, JUDGE
Leslie McDaniel appeals from the termination of her parental
rights to her son, L.G., who was born on May 23,
2018. Pursuant to Linker-Flores v. Arkansas
Department of Human Services, 359 Ark. 131, 194 S.W.3d
739 (2004), and Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i),
Leslie's counsel has filed a no-merit brief and motion to
withdraw, asserting that there are no issues of arguable
merit to support an appeal and that she should be relieved as
counsel. A copy of Leslie's counsel's brief and
motion was mailed to Leslie, and after being informed of her
right to file pro se points, Leslie declined to file any
points. We affirm and grant appellant's counsel's
motion to withdraw.
review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo.
Dinkins v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 344 Ark.
207, 40 S.W.3d 286 (2001). At least one statutory ground must
exist, in addition to a finding that it is in the child's
best interest to terminate parental rights; these must be
proved by clear and convincing evidence. Ark. Code Ann.
§ 9-27-341(b)(3) (Repl. 2017); Mitchell v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 715, 430 S.W.3d
851. Clear and convincing evidence is that degree of proof
that will produce in the fact-finder a firm conviction as to
the allegation sought to be established. Gray v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 24. The
appellate inquiry is whether the trial court's finding
that the disputed fact was proved by clear and convincing
evidence is clearly erroneous. J.T. v. Ark. Dep't of
Human Servs., 329 Ark. 243, 947 S.W.2d 761 (1997). A
finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence
to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is
left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has
been made. Yarborough v. Ark. Dep't of
Human Servs., 96 Ark.App. 247, 240 S.W.3d 626
L.G. was born, his meconium tested positive for
methamphetamine. Leslie admitted using methamphetamine
earlier that week. An Arkansas Department of Human Services
(DHS) family-service worker informed Leslie that a home study
would be necessary to ensure the baby's safety before the
baby could be placed in her custody. Leslie gave the
family-service worker an address and phone number and left
the hospital. DHS workers repeatedly attempted to make
contact with Leslie at her home, but they could never get
anyone to answer the door. Phone calls to Leslie went
unanswered. L.G. was scheduled to be discharged from the
hospital eight days after his birth, on May 31, 2018. On that
day, a DHS worker went to Leslie's house and saw three
cars parked in the driveway. A pit bull was guarding the
porch and barking viciously at the worker. An unidentified
person quickly closed the front door. The DHS worker
attempted to reach Leslie by phone but got no answer. DHS
took an emergency hold of L.G. upon his release from the
hospital and notified Leslie via text message.
4, 2018, DHS filed a motion for emergency custody, and on the
same day the trial court entered an ex parte order for
emergency custody. A probable-cause order was entered on June
11, 2018. In the probable-cause order, Leslie was allowed
reasonable visitation with L.G. contingent upon her
submitting to a drug screen and not appearing under the
influence of drugs or alcohol. Leslie was ordered to submit
to random drug screens, complete parenting classes, maintain
stable housing and employment, submit to a psychological
evaluation, and submit to a drug-and-alcohol assessment and
complete all recommendations.
trial court entered an adjudication order on July 13, 2018.
The trial court found L.G. dependent-neglected because he was
at serious risk of harm due to inadequate supervision and his
mother's drug use. The goal of the case was
review hearing, at which Leslie did not appear, was held on
September 17, 2018. At that hearing, the trial court
considered a written motion by DHS to terminate reunification
services. On September 21, 2018, the trial court entered a
review order and an order terminating reunification services.
In these orders, the trial court suspended Leslie's
visitation and relieved DHS from providing services to
Leslie. The trial court found by clear and convincing
evidence that it was in L.G.'s best interest to terminate
reunification services because Leslie had abandoned the child
and there was little likelihood that services to Leslie would
result in successful reunification.
permanency-planning order entered on October 15, 2018, the
trial court found that the goal of the case shall be
termination of parental rights and adoption. DHS filed a
petition to terminate Leslie's parental rights on
November 5, 2018. The termination hearing was held on
November 26, 2018.
did not appear at the termination hearing. The only witness
to testify at the hearing was DHS supervisor Victoria Smith.
Smith testified that Leslie had not had stable housing
throughout the case and that DHS did not know where she was
living. To Ms. Smith's knowledge, Leslie was not
employed. Ms. Smith indicated that despite referrals by DHS,
Leslie had not complied with any of the court-ordered
services. Leslie had failed to submit to a drug-and-alcohol
assessment, attend parenting classes, or submit to a
psychological evaluation. Ms. Smith stated that Leslie had
not visited L.G. at all since L.G. came into DHS custody. Ms.
Smith stated that Leslie had attempted to visit the child
only three times but that visitation was denied each time
because she either tested positive for methamphetamine or
refused to take a drug screen. Ms. Smith also stated that
Leslie previously had her parental rights terminated as to a
sibling of L.G. due to Leslie's failure to complete
services in that case.
Smith gave the opinion that Leslie had abandoned her child,
and she recommended termination of Leslie's parental
rights. She stated that if parental rights were terminated,
the plan was for L.G. to be adopted. Ms. Smith stated that
L.G.'s foster parents were ...