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Huddleston v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

January 15, 2020

LADONNA HUDDLESTON, APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILDREN, APPELLEES

Page 267

          APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. 72JV-17-699. HONORABLE STACEY ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE.

         COUNSEL:

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

          Ellan K. Howard, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

          LARRY D. VAUGHT, Judge. VIRDEN and GLADWIN, JJ., agree.

         OPINION

Page 268

         LARRY D. VAUGHT, Judge

          Ladonna Huddleston appeals the order entered by the Washington County Circuit Court terminating her parental rights to AH (born August 9, 2015) and ID (born September 29, 2010). On appeal, Huddleston argues that the circuit court clearly erred in finding grounds supported the termination decision and erred in finding that termination was in the best interest of AH and ID. We affirm.

          On September 8, 2017, ID disclosed to law enforcement that Huddleston's boyfriend, Will Hadley, had sexually abused her. Huddleston told representatives of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) that she was unaware of the abuse and that she would protect her children. On September 11, during a follow-up check, it was discovered that ID had a red mark on her face. ID reported that Huddleston had struck her as  punishment for reporting the abuse. ID further reported that Hadley had been in Huddleston's home that morning. DHS removed ID, AH, and JD[1] from Huddleston's custody and placed them in foster care. On September 13, DHS filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect of all three children, and the circuit court entered an order granting the petition that

Page 269

day. On October 25, the circuit court ordered DHS to place JD in inpatient residential treatment after finding that he had been running away from school and had disrupted two foster-care placements.

          After an adjudication hearing, the court entered an order on November 2, finding that the children were dependent-neglected and at substantial risk of serious harm as a result of abuse, sexual abuse, and parental unfitness. The court ordered Huddleston to, among other things, cooperate with DHS, participate in individual counseling, refrain from illegal drug use, submit to random drug screens, obtain and maintain stable housing and employment, demonstrate the ability to protect her children, follow the case plan and court orders, and " not let people stay at her home— Mother needs to show that she can make GOOD choices about what people she has around her and her kids!!" The goal of the case was reunification.

          On February 21, 2018, the circuit court held a review hearing wherein it found Huddleston had maintained contact with DHS, participated in counseling, submitted to drug screens, tested negative for illegal substances, secured housing and (disability) income, and was in parenting classes. The court ordered Huddleston to continue to comply with the case plan and " keep other people out of the home!!" The court found that Huddleston " is  continuing to develop her parenting skills and is working, but not yet shown, she will adequately protect the juveniles from harm."

          On March 8, the circuit court entered a review order that discharged JD from his treatment facility and ordered a trial home placement with Huddleston to begin on March 9. The order provided that " [n]o one other than ...


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