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Redden v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

November 13, 2019

SHANTEL REDDEN APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILDREN APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72JV-17-974] HONORABLE STACEY ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE

          Leah Lanford, 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 children.

          KENNETH S. HIXSON, JUDGE.

         Appellant Shantel Redden appeals from the termination of her parental rights to her children Av.R., Ar.R., Du.H., and Do.H., who range in age from six to ten years old.[1] On appeal, Shantel argues that the termination order should be reversed because there was insufficient evidence of statutory grounds and insufficient evidence that the termination was in the children's best interest. We affirm.

         We review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo. Mitchell v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 715, 430 S.W.3d 851. At least one statutory ground must exist, in addition to finding that is in the child's best interest to terminate parental rights; these must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341 (Supp. 2017); M.T. v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 58 Ark.App. 302, 952 S.W.2d 177 (1997). Clear and convincing evidence is that degree of proof that will produce in the factfinder a firm conviction as to the allegation sought to be established. Anderson v. Douglas, 310 Ark. 633, 839 S.W.2d 196 (1992). The appellate inquiry is whether the trial court's finding that the disputed fact was proved by clear and convincing evidence is clearly erroneous. J.T. v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 329 Ark. 243, 947 S.W.2d 761 (1997). 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. Yarborough v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 96 Ark.App. 247, 240 S.W.3d 626 (2006).

         On December 27, 2016, appellee Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) opened a protective-services case due to a true finding of threat of harm to the children based on allegations that Durod had committed aggravated assault against a household member. Shortly thereafter, there was a true finding of inadequate supervision by Shantel. During the protective-services case, the children remained in Shantel's custody. DHS provided Shantel with multiple services, such as counseling, home visits, a drug-and-alcohol assessment, drug screens, and parenting classes.

         On December 18, 2017, DHS filed a petition for dependency-neglect. DHS alleged that the children were dependent-neglected and at substantial risk of serious harm as a result of Shantel's parental unfitness. An attached affidavit of a family-service worker stated that Shantel had failed to avail herself of the services provided in the protective-services case. During the case, Shantel had been arrested for terroristic threatening, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Shantel was listed as a suspect on charges of breaking or entering and felony theft. Shantel had tested positive for methamphetamine and THC. The affidavit stated that Shantel had been repeatedly contacted by the school about the children's need for counseling but that Shantel had failed to get them into counseling.

         On January 4, 2018, the trial court entered an order finding probable cause that the children were dependent-neglected and placing them in emergency DHS custody. The trial court found that, despite reasonable DHS efforts to provide services to prevent removal, immediate removal of the children from Shantel's custody was necessary to protect the children's health and safety.

         The trial court entered an adjudication order on February 7, 2018, finding the children dependent-neglected. The trial court found that Shantel had been uncooperative with DHS and had been arrested more than once during the protective-services case. The trial court found that Shantel had tested positive for THC and methamphetamine, and that her youngest child tested positive for methamphetamine on a hair-follicle test. The goal of the case was reunification. Shantel was ordered to cooperate with DHS, participate in counseling, remain drug free, submit to a drug-and-alcohol assessment and to drug screens, maintain stable housing and employment, and resolve all criminal charges.

         On May 21, 2018, the trial court entered a review order finding that continued DHS custody was necessary to protect the children's health and safety. The trial court found that Shantel had complied with some of the case plan but had not refrained from illegal drug use or obtained stable housing and employment. Another review order was entered on October 24, 2018, wherein the trial court made the same findings.

         On December 7, 2018, the trial court entered a permanency-planning order, wherein the case goal was changed from reunification to termination of parental rights and adoption. The trial court again found that although Shantel had complied with some of the case plan, she had not refrained from illegal drug use or obtained stable housing and employment. The trial court found that Shantel had tested positive for methamphetamine on November 9, 2018. The trial court further found that Shantel had been arrested three times, most recently in October 2018, since the children were removed from her custody. The trial court found that Shantel had exposed the children to chaos, as evidenced by their behaviors and diagnoses of posttraumatic stress disorder, and the trial court found that Shantel had instructed the children to disobey their foster parents so they could return home.

         On January 24, 2019, DHS filed a petition to terminate Shantel's parental rights. The termination ...


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