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Mixon v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

November 20, 2019

Pamela MIXON, Appellant

Page 747


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

         Ellen K. Howard, Jonesboro, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

         Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for minor children.


         MIKE MURPHY, Judge

          Appellant Pamela Mixon appeals from the April 15, 2019 order of the Jefferson County Circuit Court granting permanent custody of four of her six children to their fathers and closing the case as it related to those children. She now asserts that the court erred in granting permanent custody to the children’s fathers because she did not receive notice that permanent custody would be considered at the hearing, and she argues that the court’s custody order was not in the children’s best interest. We affirm.

          On January 8, 2019, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (the Department) exercised an emergency hold on M.M. (born 3/16/2015) and filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect three days later. The Department initiated an investigation into the welfare of Mixon’s children after Mixon was found "passed out" in a car in the Department’s parking lot for over three hours with three-year-old M.M. confined to the car; M.M was covered in sweat and was crying loudly. Mixon agreed to a drug test that day, and she tested positive for illegal substances. The petition alleged that in addition to M.M., Mixon is the mother of K.B. (born 2/08/2002), Q.B. (born 6/14/2003), K.H. (born 11/09/2004), J.H. (born 5/30/2006), and J.C. (born 9/08/2009). Mixon had legal custody of these children, but they had been in the physical custody of the following individuals for over six months: J.H. and K.H. with their legal father, Komie Henderson (Henderson); K.B. and Q.B. with their legal father, Quentin Battles (Battles); and J.C. with his paternal grandmother, Carrie Coleman. The petition also alleged this was not the first contact that the Department has had with Mixon and her children. A child-protective-services case was open from June 4, 2015, to January 20, 2016; however, Mixon did not complete the offered services— including drug assessments, housing, drug screens, home visits, substance-abuse treatment, and employment services— because she withdrew the children from school and moved, and the Arkansas Department of Child and Family Services could not locate her.

          The circuit court entered an ex parte order of emergency custody on January 11. The order placed custody of M.M. with the Department and restricted Mixon from removing her children from the homes where they were living. On January 17, the circuit court held a probable-cause hearing, and it found that probable cause existed for M.M. to remain in the Department’s custody, and it continued to forbid Mixon from removing the other children from their placements. Additionally, the circuit court ordered that Mixon be referred for the court’s "Family Treatment Drug Court."

          On February 13, the Department filed a motion to terminate reunification services as to all her children except the child

Page 748

it had removed, M.M. The motion alleged that because the children had not lived with Mixon for an extended period, it would be detrimental to their health, safety, and well-being to attempt reunification. Thus, it requested that the circuit court change the goals for those children to relative placement.

          The court conducted the adjudication hearing the next day, found the allegations in the petition to be true, and adjudicated the children dependent-neglected. Additionally, the circuit court found Battles to be the legal father of Q.B. and K.B.; Henderson to be the legal father of K.H. and J.H.; Justin Coleman to be the legal father of J.C.; and Myron Johnson to be the legal father of M.M. The circuit court further found that none of the legal fathers had contributed to the dependency-neglect of the children, set the goal of the case as reunification, and ordered all parents to comply with the case plan and court orders.

          On February 21, the circuit court held a Family Treatment Drug Court hearing wherein it reviewed the case and ordered a goal of reunification with a fit parent. At this hearing, two positive drug screens were admitted into evidence, one from that day and one from the January 17 hearing. Due to Mixon’s positive drug screens, the circuit court ordered that she submit to another drug screen before she left ...

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