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Dye v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

January 15, 2020



          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 child.


         Miranda Dye appeals the order terminating her parental rights to her daughter, MC. On appeal, she argues that the circuit court's best-interest finding was not supported by sufficient evidence. We affirm.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         This case began on March 2, 2018, with the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) petitioning for emergency custody and dependency-neglect of MC, born September 26, 2017. An affidavit attached to the petition alleges that police had been called to the home of Miranda Dye and Lance Cooksey, MC's father, due to a domestic altercation.[1] Lance was arrested as a result of the dispute, and Miranda was cited for endangering the welfare of a minor. M.C. was placed in DHS custody on a seventy-two-hour hold because the residence, a fifth-wheel-type RV trailer, was filthy: dirty dishes were on the counters, floors, and stacked alongside the bed; and the bathroom toilet was filled with urine, and there was a bucket of urine sitting alongside the toilet. Also, Miranda submitted to a drug screen, which was positive for amphetamines, methamphetamine, and THC.

         The circuit court signed an ex parte order granting custody to DHS, and on March 9, the court found probable cause existed that it was contrary to MC's welfare to return custody to Miranda. The court found that the parents had neglected M.C.'s home environment and that they had inadequately supervised M.C. due to substance abuse. MC was placed with Teresa Genz, a paternal aunt. Both parents were ordered, among other things, to cooperate with DHS and submit to weekly random drug screens.

         An adjudication order was filed April 19, 2018, finding that MC was dependent-neglected as a result of parental unfitness. The court ordered that MC remain in DHS custody and that the goal of the case was reunification with her parents. Lance was ordered to pay $50 a week child support to Teresa Genz, and Miranda was ordered to contribute "once she gets a job." The court also noted that the caseworker testified that the parents' home had been cleaned and was safe and appropriate.

         A review hearing was held on September 12, and custody remained with DHS. MC had been placed in foster care with Cassie and Cody Julich, Lance's niece and her husband, and the court found that this placement was in MC's best interest.[2] The goal remained reunification with the parents. Miranda was found to have complied with all of the court orders and the case plan, and the court found that she had made much progress toward alleviating the causes of removal.

         However, after a permanency-planning hearing on February 6, 2019, the court authorized a plan for adoption with DHS to file a petition for termination of parental rights (TPR). The court found that Miranda had not demonstrated stability or sobriety nor had she demonstrated the ability to protect MC. She missed several drug screens after being called in for her weekly tests, and she tested positive for methamphetamine on January 22, 2019. Miranda had not paid child support as ordered, and she and Lance had been arrested on December 19, 2018, for possession of drug paraphernalia and tampering with physical evidence. Miranda was ordered to enter a residential-treatment facility and complete a program for substance abuse.

         DHS filed a petition for TPR on April 4 alleging that both parents' rights should be terminated and seeking the authority to consent to adoption. The statutory ground alleged against Miranda was that as the custodial parent, she had failed to remedy the conditions that caused MC's removal and that MC had remained out of her custody for twelve months. See Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(i)(a) (Supp. 2017). The petition alleged that even though Miranda had participated in some services, her recent arrest demonstrated that her illegal drug use would continue to seriously affect her ability to care for MC. DHS also alleged the "other factors" ground against both parents and claimed that the parents' noncompliance demonstrated an indifference to the prospect of reunifying with MC. See Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(vii)(a). DHS pointed to the parents' December arrests and their missed drug screens. DHS alleged that MC is adoptable and would be subject to potential harm if returned to her parents.

         At the May 10 TPR hearing, K.C. Oliver, the family service worker assigned to the case, testified that Miranda had participated in individual counseling and visitation with MC but had not submitted to random drug screens or obtained stable housing or employment. She said that MC is adoptable and very bonded to her family. She also said that further contact with MC's parents would be "up to the family." She said that Miranda had left residential treatment after five days, and Miranda had told her it was because of a high-risk pregnancy. She said that Miranda had been arrested on May 3, 2019, for failure to appear, which stemmed from her December 2018 arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia and ...

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