Rachel HAMPTON and Dante St. Michael, Appellants
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES and Minor Children, Appellees
FROM THE SCOTT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 64JV-17-37],
HONORABLE TERRY SULLIVAN, JUDGE
Lightle, Raney, Streit & Streit, LLP, by: Jonathan R. Streit,
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for
Appellant Rachel Hampton appeals from the April 2, 2019 order
of the Scott County Circuit Court terminating her parental
rights to her three children: her daughter KA, her son EA,
and her son HSM. Rachels counsel has filed a
merit-based brief arguing that the circuit courts finding
that statutory grounds were proved is clearly erroneous.
Appellant Dante St. Michael appeals from the same order that
terminated his parental rights to his son HSM. Dantes
attorney has filed a no-merit brief and a motion to withdraw
as counsel pursuant to Rule 6-9(i) (2019) of the Rules of the
Arkansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals and
Linker-Flores v. Arkansas Department of Human
Services, 359 Ark. 131, 194 S.W.3d 739 (2004). The clerk
of this court mailed Dante a certified copy of his counsels
motion and brief, informing him of his right to file pro se
points for reversal, but Dante filed no such points. In
Rachels appeal, we affirm the circuit courts order because
it is not clearly erroneous. In Dantes appeal, we grant
counsels motion to withdraw and affirm the termination order
because counsel is correct that there is no issue of arguable
merit to raise on appeal.
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 child.
Houseman v. Ark. Dept of Human Servs., 2016
Ark.App. 227, 491 S.W.3d 153. 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 juvenile will be adopted and of the
potential harm caused by returning custody of the child to
the parent. Id. These must be proved by clear and
convincing evidence, which is the degree of proof that will
produce in the fact-finder a firm conviction regarding the
allegation sought to be established. Id. We review
termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo. Id.
The appellate inquiry is whether the circuit courts finding
that the disputed fact was proved by clear and convincing
evidence is clearly erroneous. Id. A finding is
clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support
it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with a
definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.
Id. We defer to the circuit court on matters of
witness credibility. Id.
evidence in this case, as it relates to Rachel and Dante, is
as follows. Rachel and Dante lived together in Boles,
Arkansas, a rural area in west central Arkansas. The children
were taken into the custody of the Department of Human
Services (DHS) in mid-December 2017, days after HSMs birth.
Rachel used methamphetamine throughout her pregnancy. HSM had
tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine, he was
being given intravenous antibiotics, and he was on oxygen
because he could not breathe on his own. Rachel grew, smoked,
and sold marijuana and allowed EA, who was only about four
years old, to be exposed to or use drugs. KA, who was about
seven years old, reportedly had observed her mother have
sexual intercourse and use drugs. Rachel would not get up to
ensure KA attended school, so a concerned neighbor had taken
KA into her home during the week.
adjudication hearing in January 2018, Rachel stipulated to a
finding that her children were dependent-neglected, and she
was ordered to comply with certain case-plan requirements
that included drug testing, parenting classes, a
psychological evaluation, counseling, and obtaining and
maintaining appropriate housing and employment. Dante was not
found to have contributed to the initiating cause of
dependency-neglect, but he was ordered to comply with the
same case-plan requirements as Rachel.
April 2018, the matter was reviewed, at which time both
Rachel and Dante were complying with the case plan. Dante was
ordered to pay $26 per week in child support for HSM. The
circuit court declined to order Rachel to pay child support
for her children.
matter was reviewed again in July 2018. All three children
had been placed together in the same foster home. Rachel and
Dante had not fully participated in reunification services,
so they were deemed noncompliant. Rachel was ordered to stop
all illegal drug use, maintain sobriety, obtain appropriate
housing, and arrange for the reinstatement of her drivers
license. Rachel had started inpatient drug treatment at the
end of June 2018. Dante was ordered to submit to a
hair-follicle drug screen.
December 2018, a permanency-planning hearing was conducted.
Rachel and Dante were not in compliance as neither had
completed drug treatment and counseling, and they did not
have appropriate housing. Rachels only employment was
"gathering eggs," and she did not have a drivers
license or transportation. Although she had completed
inpatient treatment in August 2018, she had not complied with
the aftercare plan. She was scheduled for an outpatient
assessment twice but canceled both appointments. Dante had
not attended visitation regularly, he did not complete
outpatient drug treatment, and he had been arrested in July
2018 on drug-related charges. The goal was changed to
termination of parental rights and adoption based on the
parents failure to demonstrate meaningful progress.
filed a petition to terminate parental rights in February
2019 alleging the following statutory grounds: (1) out of
custody of the custodial or noncustodial parent for one year
and failure to remedy; (2) failure to provide material
support or to maintain meaningful contact with the children;
(3) subsequent other factors; (4) being sentenced to a
substantial period of the childs life; and (5) aggravated
circumstances, meaning little likelihood that further
services would result in reunification. See Ark.
Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B) (Supp. 2017). DHS also alleged
that it was in the childrens best interest to terminate all
parental rights because the children were adoptable, and even
if they were not adoptable, there was great potential harm in
returning them to the parents because they were drug abusers
and unable to provide even the most basic needs, and one
parent (Dante) was incarcerated.
termination hearing was conducted in March 2019. Rachel
tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine a week
prior to this hearing, and she admitted using methamphetamine
in January 2019. Rachel acknowledged that she is an addict,
that she had not yet overcome her problem with meth, and that
she had not done anything in the last six or seven months to
address her drug addiction. She said she rescheduled her most
recent assessment appointment because she woke up late. She
said she had worked a long time as an egg gatherer making
$150 to $200 per week, but she knew it was not enough to
support her family. She was aware she needed to obtain a
better residence or fix the one she was in to make it
appropriate for her children; however, she did not want to
move. Rachel added that she would have to pay a $3,000 cash
bond to Yell County to ...