FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT
[NO. 66FJV-17-13] HONORABLE ANNIE HENDRICKS, JUDGE
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
W. GRUBER, CHIEF JUDGE.
Melissa Everly appeals an order of the Sebastian County
Circuit Court terminating her parental rights to her child,
BE. On appeal, she argues that termination of her parental
rights was not in BE's best interest. We affirm.
January 4, 2017, the Arkansas Department of Human Services
(DHS) took a seventy-two-hour hold on BE (DOB 11/05/06) based
on allegations that Melissa failed to protect BE by allowing
her boyfriend, Joseph Henry, into her home and around BE
after BE made allegations of sexual contact. These
allegations resulted in a "true finding" after an
investigation by the Crimes Against Children Division (CACD)
of the Arkansas State Police. The case progressed through
probable-cause and adjudication hearings. The circuit court
found BE was dependent-neglected, ordered continued custody
in DHS, and set the goal of reunification, with a concurrent
goal of permanent-relative custody. The court ordered that BE
visit with Melissa only at the recommendation of BE's
therapist. The parents were ordered to obtain/maintain stable
and appropriate housing, employment, income, and
transportation; complete parenting classes; stay clean and
sober; submit to a psychological evaluation and complete any
treatment recommended; and submit to random drug screens.
review hearing was held on June 7, and the circuit court
found that DHS had made reasonable efforts to provide or make
available services to achieve the goal of reunification. The
circuit court found that the parents had not complied with
the case plan and had not had contact with DHS. While Melissa
submitted to a drug-and-alcohol assessment, she had not
completed treatment, and a psychological evaluation was
scheduled for August 3. In addition to the orders previously
set out in the adjudication order, Melissa was ordered to
complete domestic-violence education. Melissa requested that
her sister be considered as a placement option, and Greg
asked that his mother be considered. The court continued the
goal of reunification.
permanency-planning order was filed February 1, 2018, with
the circuit court setting concurrent goals of reunification,
adoption, or permanent-relative custody. The order noted that
although Melissa had competed a psychological evaluation, a
drug and alcohol assessment, and parenting classes, Melissa
remained unconvinced that Joseph Henry did anything
inappropriate with BE despite the fact that Henry had pled
guilty to a sex crime in which his daughter was the victim
and there was evidence suggesting Melissa was still in a
relationship with him. Melissa claimed she had not answered
her door to allow the caseworker to make unannounced visits
because she worked from home; this was also her excuse for
being unavailable for drug screens or to attend counseling or
domestic-violence classes. The order provided that it had
serious concerns that BE could be safely returned to Melissa
within a time frame consistent with BE's developmental
needs, noting that Melissa needed to "intensify her
level of compliance." The order stated that BE was in a
kinship-foster placement with her paternal grandparents, but
the court did not have sufficient information to determine
whether permanent-relative custody would be more appropriate
than adoption if reunification was not achieved. The court
found that DHS had made reasonable efforts to finalize a
permanency plan. The parents were ordered not to have contact
with BE except as specifically approved by DHS, and further
that there be no contact between BE and Joseph Henry and that
Melissa report any contact with him to DHS.
fifteen-month review hearing took place on March 7, 2018. The
court continued the concurrent goals of reunification,
adoption, or permanent custody. In addition to including the
previous orders from the permanency-planning hearing, the
court further ordered Melissa to provide the caseworker a
copy of her 2017 state and federal tax returns along with her
30, 2018, DHS filed a petition for termination of parental
rights alleging numerous grounds: failure to remedy (Ark.
Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(i)(a) (Supp.
2017)); failure to provide meaningful support (Ark. Code Ann.
§ 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(ii)(a)); abandonment (Ark.
Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(iv)); and
subsequent factors (Ark. Code Ann. §
termination hearing was held on October 23. Four witnesses
testified at the hearing: BE; Melissa; Dustin Barlow, DHS
public-assistance investigator; and DHS caseworker Mindy
time of the termination hearing BE was in the sixth grade.
She testified that she went into foster care because her
mom's boyfriend "did some really bad stuff" to
her. Initially, BE lived with foster parents for three
months, followed by several months with her aunt and uncle
before being placed with her paternal grandparents, with whom
she resided at the time of the hearing. BE testified that she
had not visited her mom since she was removed from her home,
nor did she want to see or talk to her. BE stated that she
had participated in therapy with her mom but did not like it
because she did not want to see her mom, her mom did not
listen to her, and her mom lied in counseling.
prepared a written list to present to the circuit court
outlining fifteen reasons she did not want to live with her
mom, including in part that her mom always believed her
boyfriend over BE; she saw a picture on Facebook that showed
her mom partying two days after she was removed from the
home; her mom would "pop" her mouth if her mom did
not like what she said; her mom used her as a shield when her
parents fought, which resulted in her getting punched once;
her mom had attempted and threatened suicide; and her mom
smoked "meth" out of a pipe. BE expressed a desire
to be adopted by ...