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Davis v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

September 25, 2019

DEANA DAVIS APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILDREN APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT [NO. 66FJV-17-196] HONORABLE LEIGH ZUERKER, JUDGE

          Lightle, Raney, Streit & Streit, LLP, by: Jonathan R. Streit, for appellant.

          Ellen K. Howard, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

          ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Judge

         Appellant Deana Davis appeals the January 24, 2019 order of the Sebastian County Circuit Court terminating her parental rights to her minor children, J.E., K.E., and E.J. Deana challenges the statutory grounds relied on by the court to terminate her parental rights and makes a general challenge to the court's best-interest finding. We affirm.

         I. Facts

         On March 26, 2017, Eric Jenkins was arrested for public intoxication, disorderly conduct, refusal to submit to arrest, and third-degree domestic battery. The arrest occurred after Deana reported that Eric had been drinking and attacked her-specifically, that Eric pushed Deana into a window multiple times while the children were near the scene of the incident. A hotline call was made on April 3, 2017, regarding the March 26, 2017 incident.

          On April 3, the Arkansas State Police notified appellee, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS), about the domestic-abuse incident between Deana and Eric. On April 4, Deana executed an affidavit in support of a petition for domestic order of protection regarding the events from March 26. DHS initiated a non-court-ordered protective-services case and held a staffing on April 6. Deana agreed to abide by the no-contact order and comply with DHS's recommendations for services, such as domestic-violence classes and HUD housing.

         On April 11, DHS held another staffing with Deana at which time she stated that she would not have obtained the no-contact order against Eric had DHS not become involved and that she did not see an issue with his being around the children. Despite this statement, Deana again agreed to abide by the no-contact order and to participate in DHS services.

         On April 12, family service worker (FSW) Pearson called Eric to discuss the case and the services that DHS was offering to him. Eric indicated to FSW Pearson that he was residing with Deana's mother, Vicky Davis, and that same day, when FSW Pearson made a home visit to Vicky's residence, Eric fled out the back door because Deana and the children were inside the residence. FSW Pearson found Eric violating the no-contact order with Deana, and she alerted law enforcement, who arrived and arrested both Eric and Deana for the violation. As a result, DHS exercised a seventy-two-hour hold on the children.

          On April 17, DHS filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect of J.E., K.E., and E.J., and on the same day, the circuit court entered an ex parte emergency order of custody for the three children.

         On April 20, the circuit court held a probable-cause hearing wherein it found that probable cause existed at the time of the emergency order and continued to exist for the children to remain in DHS's custody. Additionally, the circuit court ordered that Joshua Evans (Joshua)-father of J.E. and K.E.-and Eric-father of E.J.-not be allowed visitation or contact with the children. The probable-cause order was entered on May 12, 2017.

         At the adjudication hearing on May 25, the children were adjudicated dependent-neglected based on Deana's stipulation regarding her failure to protect the children. The court further ordered a goal of reunification, and Deana was ordered to comply with the case plan; have stable and appropriate housing, income and transportation; complete parenting classes; complete a drug-and-alcohol assessment and hair-follicle tests and comply with the treatment recommendations therefrom; and submit to random drug screens and visits. Additionally, the court found that Eric was not a fit parent and ordered that he have no contact with Deana or the children while the criminal no-contact order and/or orders of protection were in place. The adjudication order was filed on July 24, 2017.

         A review hearing was held on September 21 at which time the circuit court continued the goal of reunification. It found that DHS had complied with the case plan and orders of the court regarding services being rendered. The circuit court also found that Deana had housing, income, and transportation; had completed twenty-one of twenty-six domestic-violence classes; had completed parenting classes; had completed her drug-and-alcohol assessment with treatment underway; had visited the children regularly; had submitted to drug screens and hair-follicle tests; and had completed one couples-counseling session. A review order was filed on November 3, 2017.

         A second review hearing took place on November 16 wherein the circuit court continued the goal of reunification. The circuit court again found that DHS had complied with the case plan and orders of the court regarding services being rendered to Deana including, but not limited to, domestic-violence classes. The circuit court noted that Deana had continued to comply with the case plan and orders of the court. The court further found that family counseling had begun with Joshua but that Eric had not yet been added to the counseling sessions. Based on Eric's and Deana's ...


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