FROM THE OUACHITA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 52JV-18-89],
HONORABLE DAVID W. TALLEY, JR., JUDGE
Standridge, for appellant.
Corbyn, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for
R. ABRAMSON, Judge
Davidsons parental rights to his child, M.E., were
terminated by the Ouachita County Circuit Court on January
18, 2019. Davidson now appeals the termination, challenging
the sufficiency of the evidence. We affirm.
was five years old when she was removed from the legal and
physical custody of Davidson due to allegations of severe
malnourishment. The circuit court entered an emergency order
finding that M.E. was currently hospitalized due to extremely
high levels of sodium, severe dehydration, and
malnourishment. Prior to the probable-cause hearing, the
Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition
for termination of parental rights alleging several grounds
for termination under Arkansas Code Annotated section
9-27-341(b)(3)(B) (Supp. 2017). The circuit court found
probable cause, and at the subsequent adjudication hearing,
M.E. was adjudicated dependent-neglected for many reasons,
including that her life was endangered.
termination hearing on January 2, 2019, the DHS caseworker,
Pamela Ward, testified that she could not say that Davidson
would provide the supervision necessary to protect M.E. from
potential danger or harm and that DHS could not say that
Davidson is willing and able to meet M.E.s needs for food,
clothing, shelter, and medical care. Because he had a
criminal proceeding pending, Davidson chose to invoke his
Fifth Amendment rights and did not testify at the termination
objection, DHS introduced the transcript and exhibits from
the August 15, 2018 adjudication hearing at the termination
hearing. Dr. Rachel Clingenpeel, an assistant professor of
pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
(UAMS) and the associate director of the Team for Children at
Risk at Arkansas Childrens Hospital (Childrens), testified
as an expert witness in child-abuse pediatrics at the
adjudication hearing. Dr. Clingenpeel indicated that M.E. was
critically ill, and her condition was life-threatening. M.E.
was severely malnourished. She was dehydrated. She had severe
electrolyte abnormalities, including hypernatremia, which is
an elevated level of sodium in the blood. She was unable to
stand without support. She was uncomfortable with any
movement. During the two weeks M.E. was a patient at
Childrens, she gained roughly nine pounds.
Following the termination hearing, the circuit court
terminated Davidsons parental rights as to all alleged
grounds, including that M.E.s life was in danger. The
circuit court also found that termination of Davidsons
parental rights was in M.E.s best interest. This timely
appeal is now properly before this court.
Termination of parental rights is a two-step process
requiring a determination that the parent is unfit and that
termination is in the best interest of the children.
Griffin v. Ark. Dept of Human Servs., 2017 Ark.App.
635, 2017 Ark.App. 635. The first step requires proof of one
or more statutory grounds for termination; the second step,
the best-interest analysis, includes consideration of the
likelihood that the juveniles will be adopted and of the
potential harm caused by returning custody to the parent.
Id. Each of these requires proof by clear and