FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72JV-18-263]
HONORABLE STACEY ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE
Standridge, for appellant.
Corbyn, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
Yelvington appeals from the order of the Washington County
Circuit Court terminating her parental rights to her son, CY.
She also appeals the permanency-planning order changing the
goal of the case to termination of parental rights and
adoption. On appeal, she argues that it was error to change
the goal of the case to termination and adoption because she
was demonstrating sustainable investment in the case plan and
was making measurable progress. She also argues that
termination of her parental rights was not in CY's best
interest. We affirm.
March 13, 2018, the Arkansas Department of Human Services
(DHS) received a call on the child-abuse hotline that
six-year-old CY had been sexually abused by his father, John
Rogers. The call was made by CY's mother from the
child's school because CY disclosed the abuse to school
staff, and the staff gave the mother the option to call, or
they would. Yelvington admitted CY had already told her about
being raped by his father, but she had told CY not to tell
anyone. DHS investigated, and Yelvington said CY had told her
"his daddy had . . . made him get on his hands and
knees, pulled his pants down, and stuck his 'mhm' in
his butt." Yelvington knew that Rogers had a true
finding against him for sexually abusing two other children.
There had been a protection plan in place, signed by both
Yelvington and Rogers, that provided that CY would not be
allowed to have unsupervised contact with Rogers.
March 15, 2018, DHS exercised a seventy-two-hour hold on CY
based on suspected sexual abuse and Yelvington's failure
to protect. The case proceeded through emergency,
probable-cause, and adjudication hearings. CY was adjudicated
dependent-neglected due to sexual abuse, neglect, and
parental unfitness. Specifically, the circuit court found
that the allegations in the petition were true and correct
and that "the evidence is horrific, clear and convincing
that John Rogers anally raped [CY]. Stephanie Yelvington
failed to protect [CY] from the sexual abuse by John
Rogers." The circuit court further found that
Yelvington knew of the dangers John Rogers posed but violated
the safety plan. . . . [CY] told Mother at least twice but
Mother did nothing to stop the abuse and did not call the
police. The Court today finds that Stephanie . . . subjected
[CY] to sexual abuse including, aggravated circumstances
under A.C.A. § 9-27-341, for sexual abuse.
goal of the case was set as reunification with a concurrent
goal of adoption. Yelvington was ordered to follow the case
plan and court orders and demonstrate the ability to protect
the juvenile and keep him safe from harm. The next hearing
was set as a permanency-planning hearing.
21, 2018, the circuit court held a permanency-planning
hearing. At that hearing, the court heard from Katie Cuff,
CY's therapist. She testified that CY is progressing in
therapy, has reduced anxiety, and is developing greater
self-esteem in therapy. Rosalinda Medrano, CY's
caseworker, testified next. She testified that the family has
a history with DHS because CY was previously malnourished due
to severe food allergies and an avoidant/restrictive
food-intake disorder. She said that he is thriving since
coming into foster care. Medrano stated that Yelvington is
cooperative and completing all her services. She testified
that Yelvington was diagnosed with an
intellectual-development disorder and that the psychological
evaluation provided that it is "unlikely that Ms.
Yelvington will be able to manage CY on her own as he grows
and develops." The report further provided that
Yelvington is "easily overwhelmed" and "relies
on others to take care of her." Medrano testified that
considering all of CY's needs (allergies, nutritional,
psychological) and Yelvington's psychological report, CY
could not be safely returned to Yelvington's home and
that the case goal should be changed to adoption. Medrano
acknowledged that Yelvington is making progress but that the
case is complicated considering all of CY's needs.
this hearing, the circuit court heard testimony about
possibly placing CY with Yelvington's stepsister, Cindy
Adler. Adler worked for DHS, but the court found it was not
in CY's interest to place him with Adler at the time
because Adler did not have a significant relationship with
the child and because Adler "pulled some strings"
at DHS to get CY's case "restricted"-which
restricted Medrano's access to CY and his
crimes-against-children-investigation interviews and
information-and which the court found was to CY's
detriment. The goal of the case was changed to authorizing a
plan for adoption and termination of parental rights.
August 30, 2018, DHS filed a petition for termination of
parental rights, alleging the grounds of sexual abuse, Ark.
Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(vi)(a) (Supp.
2017), and aggravated circumstances, Ark. Code Ann. §
9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(ix)(a)(3)(B). On October 3, the
circuit court held a termination-of-parental-rights hearing.
beginning of the hearing, the court denied motions for
reconsideration and 54(b) certification from the
permanency-planning order. Adler's second motion for
intervention was likewise denied. Next, it heard testimony
from Cuff, who testified that CY was continuing to improve in
therapy. It then heard testimony from Medrano. Medrano
testified that Yelvington was following the case plan but
that DHS was still concerned that Yelvington was unable to
keep CY safe. She explained that the hold from the failure to
protect and sexual abuse actually took place while there was
an open protective-services case on CY for his malnutrition
with Yelvington being the offender. Medrano testified that
even before removal, Yelvington ...