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, for appellant.
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge
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
Rachel's counsel has filed a merit-based brief arguing
that the circuit court's 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. Dante's 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 counsel's motion and brief, informing him of
his right to file pro se points for reversal, but Dante filed
no such points. In Rachel's appeal, we affirm the circuit
court's order because it is not clearly erroneous. In
Dante's appeal, we grant counsel's motion to withdraw
and affirm the termination order because counsel is correct
that there is no issue of arguable merit to raise on appeal.
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.
Dep't 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 court's
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 HSM's
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
driver's 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. Rachel's only employment was
"gathering eggs," and she did not have a
driver's 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 child's 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 children's 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 get ...