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Migues v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

October 2, 2019

BRITTANY RYNN MIGUES APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, ELEVENTH DIVISION [NO. 60JV-18-40] HONORABLE PATRICIA JAMES, JUDGE

          Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Commission for Parent Counsel, for appellant.

          Ellen 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

         Appellant Brittany Migues appeals after the Pulaski County Circuit Court filed an order terminating her parental rights to A.T. (DOB 1-10-2017).[1] 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.

         I. Relevant Facts

         On 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.

         In the 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.

         At a 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 placement."

         A 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."

         At the 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.

         Brandon 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.

         Appellant 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 A.T. ...


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