FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72JV-19-62],
HONORABLE STACEY ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Commission for Parent Counsel, for
K. Howard, Jonesboro, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for
B. SWITZER, Judge
Tiffany Cramer appeals from the March 7 and April 18, 2019
orders adjudicating her three children, BA, CA, and MC,
dependent-neglected. As her sole point of appeal, she
challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the
adjudication. We affirm.
Adjudication hearings are held to determine whether the
allegations in a petition are substantiated by the proof.
Araujo v. Ark. Dept of Human Servs., 2019 Ark.App.
181, 574 S.W.3d 683. In reviewing a dependency-neglect
adjudication, we defer to the circuit courts superior
position to observe the parties and judge the credibility of
the witnesses. Id. We will not reverse the circuit
courts findings unless they are 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.
dependent-neglected juvenile includes any juvenile who is at
substantial risk of serious harm as a result of neglect or
parental unfitness. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-303(18)(A) (Supp.
2017). The definition of neglect includes the failure to take
reasonable action to protect the juvenile from abuse,
neglect, or parental unfitness when the existence of this
condition was known or should have been known. Ark. Code Ann.
§ 9-27-303(36)(A)(iii). An adjudication of dependency-neglect
is an adjudication as to the juvenile, not the parent, and
without reference to which parent committed the acts or
omissions leading to the adjudication; the juvenile is simply
dependent-neglected. Araujo, supra.
January 11, 2019, Tiffany left BA, CA, and JA at her mothers
house so that her mother, Joanne Hostetter, and her sister,
Melissa Cramer, could babysit them. Joanne shared the house
with Melissa, and Joannes boyfriend, Carroll Tilton, also
lived there. In addition, Joanne had guardianship over
Tiffanys other child, MC, as well as two other children, MD
and HK. The Washington County Sheriffs Department responded
to a call that night because Joanne and Melissa had left the
minor children, MD, BA, CA, and JA, alone at the house. In
addition to inadequate supervision, the resulting
investigation found the home was not suitable for children
because of unsecured prescription bottles within the
childrens reach and unsanitary conditions. It was eventually
determined that BA, CA, and JA were Tiffanys children and
that they resided in her house, not Joannes. Consequently,
Tiffanys house was also inspected. It was found to be
appropriate. BA, CA, and JA were returned to Tiffany, but she
was instructed not to allow Joanne and Melissa to supervise
them. MC, Tiffanys other biological child, was not released
to Tiffany because Joanne was still her legal guardian.
Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) continued its
hold on MC, MD, and HK and developed a written protection
plan for the children. The plan required Joanne and Melissa
to lock the medications in a safe, to correct the sanitary
problems in the house, and to develop a caregiver plan for
the children when they were at work. DHS returned to the home
on January 14, 2019, to inspect the health and safety
conditions; they found compliance and returned MD, HK, and MC
to the home.
January 23, 2019, JA was found unresponsive while at Joannes
house. She was transported to the local hospital where she
tested positive for high levels of oxycodone. She was then
taken to Arkansas Childrens Hospital (ACH) where she was
given a fatal prognosis. DHS was notified of these events on
January 24. The resulting inspection of Joannes house
revealed many prescription pill bottles in Joannes bedroom,
which is where JA had been found unresponsive. Joanne shared
the bedroom with her boyfriend, Tilton. A second
seventy-two-hour hold was placed on all the children, but JA
died the next day— January 25. A petition for emergency
custody and dependency-neglect with respect to BA, CA, and MC
was filed on January 28 and granted the next day. The
probable-cause order was filed on February 1, 2019, and the
trial court specifically found that Tiffany had returned her
children to Joannes house after DHS instructed her not to do
so; that the poor parenting choice placed her children in a
harmful situation and ultimately resulted in JAs death; that