FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, ELEVENTH DIVISION [NO.
60JV-18-40] HONORABLE PATRICIA JAMES, JUDGE
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Commission for Parent Counsel, for
K. Howard, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
KENNETH S. HIXSON, JUDGE
Brittany Migues appeals after the Pulaski County Circuit
Court filed an order terminating her parental rights to A.T.
(DOB 1-10-2017). Appellant argues on appeal that the
evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that termination was
in A.T.'s best interest when there were multiple
available relatives and the Arkansas Department of Human
Services (DHS) failed to fully explore relative placement in
compliance with the concurrent goal of the case established
by the trial court. We affirm.
January 12, 2018, DHS filed a petition for ex parte emergency
custody and dependency-neglect of A.T. In the affidavit
attached to the petition, DHS stated that a seventy-two-hour
hold was exercised over A.T. due to inadequate supervision,
environmental neglect, and inadequate shelter. Appellant had
been homeless and lived in various shelters with A.T. After
appellant was arrested on January 9, 2018, A.T. was left with
another homeless friend who was unable to meet A.T.'s
needs. The trial court granted the petition, finding that
probable cause existed for the removal, and a probable-cause
order was filed on January 17, 2018. Appellant was ordered to
submit to random drug screens, complete a drug-and-alcohol
assessment and follow any recommendations, complete a
counseling assessment and follow any recommendations, submit
to a psychological evaluation, successfully complete
counseling if recommended, successfully complete parenting
classes, and maintain stable housing and employment.
March 7, 2018 adjudication order, A.T. was found to be
dependent-neglected as a result of neglect and parental
unfitness in that appellant was in jail at the time of
removal and her whereabouts were unknown at the time of the
adjudication hearing. The goal of the case was set to
reunification with a parent, and the dependency-neglect case
proceeded in the normal course with further hearings.
July 9, 2018 review hearing, appellant testified that she had
been incarcerated but had been released on January 30, 2018.
She was on probation and was residing at Dorcas House. The
DHS caseworker testified that the paternal great-grandmother
and grandfather had been identified as potential
relative-placement candidates but that they lived out of
state, which required DHS to complete placement packets under
the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).
Ark. Code Ann. § 9-29-201 to -301 (Repl. 2015).
Appellant testified that she did not want A.T. placed out of
state. In its order, the trial court noted that appellant was
"finally getting started" with her compliance. It
further changed the goal of the case to reunification with a
concurrent goal of relative placement. It ordered DHS to
conduct home evaluations on any appropriate, willing
relatives. The trial court further noted, "Mother is
adamantly against out-of-state placement of the juvenile.
Mother needs to get herself healthy and stable, or these out
of state relatives will be considered for long-term
permanency-planning hearing was held on January 7, 2019. It
was at this hearing that the trial court changed the goal to
adoption. DHS's witness, Mary O'Connor, testified
that A.T.'s paternal grandfather stated that he did not
have stable placement for A.T. and that he no longer lived in
the state where he had initially requested ICPC submission.
Appellant had left Dorcas House, and both parents were
incarcerated at the time of the hearing. The trial court
found that DHS had made reasonable efforts to provide
services and achieve the goal of the case. Finally, the trial
court ordered DHS to "work on expedited ICPC referrals
for any viable relatives that may exist. This was held up
previously because of mother's adamancy that she wanted
the child to remain in Arkansas at the last hearing."
termination hearing, Angela Brown testified that she is the
adoption specialist assigned to this case. Ms. Brown
testified that there were 378 matching families that would be
interested in adopting A.T.
Taplin, A.T.'s father, testified that although he was
incarcerated, either his grandmother, Adrianne Wilkerson, or
father, Arthur Suggs, would be willing to take care of A.T.
also admitted that she was incarcerated at the time of the
termination hearing and could not take care of A.T. but had
hoped she would receive early parole sometime later that
April. She further testified that she had been in jail three
times during the pendency of this case and admitted she had
not fully complied with the case plan. She further admitted
that she did not have any family members who would be willing
to accept placement of A.T. Therefore, she requested an
additional three months to show the trial court that she
could gain stability and be in a position to take care of