Appeals Court upholds termination of parental rights in Jefferson County case


The Arkansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday said Juvenile Judge Earnest E. Brown Jr. was correct when he terminated the parental rights of a woman last year.

Tamara McBride had argued in her appeal that there was insufficient evidence to support Brown’s decision, but the Appeals Court disagreed.

The case began on June 14, 2011, when the Arkansas Department of Human Services filed an emergency petition to remove custody of McBride’s son, identified in the court ruling only as J.M., who was born June 9, 2011. At the time of the child’s birth, McBride tested positive for THC (marijuana). Brown ruled that the infant was dependent-neglected and ordered DHS to provide services to McBride.

At the court hearing, McBride again tested positive for THC and was held in contempt “for her attitude and outburst in court.”

During a hearing in November 2011, Brown said McBride had made no progress toward changing the circumstances that resulted in the child’s removal from her home and scheduled another review hearing for April 12, 2012. That hearing had to be rescheduled when McBride abruptly left the court building.

Another hearing was held on Aug. 23, 2012, and again Brown determined that McBride had failed to comply with the case plan that would have resulted in her regaining custody of the child. Brown ruled that additional services would not likely remedy the situation.

According to the court ruling, the goal of the case was changed to adoption rather than reunification. On Sept. 24, 2012, DHS filed a petition for termination of parental rights. A hearing on that petition scheduled for Oct. 31, 2012, was an hour late because McBride had no transportation and had not requested for DHS to provide transportation.

A DHS supervisor, LaTisha Young, testified that McBride tested positive for marijuana in a random drug screen in June 2012, and although she had ample opportunity to complete drug treatment — including three referrals — did not seek outpatient drug treatment until Sept. 27, 2012. Young also said McBride’s two other children had been removed from her custody in 2010. Young said that although McBride had completed parenting classes, she “did not think McBride had learned anything from the classes.”

Young said she saw McBride trying to feed the less-than-1-year-old child Cheetos during a visitation. Since the child had entered foster care, Young said McBride had only visited him nine times.

Also testifying at the hearing was Police Detective Kenneth Evans, who said a search warrant had been served at McBride’s house on Aug. 15, 2012, and that marijuana, a set of digital scales and plastic baggies were found. McBride and a male were arrested for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia. Evans said children were present at the time of the arrests.

When she testified, McBride said she had quit drugs on her own in June 2012, that she did not know that her male companion was selling drugs, that she was unemployed and missed visits with the child and appointments for counseling because she had no transportation. She later said that transportation was not the reason she failed to attend counseling because the counselor’s office was within walking distance and DHS had offered to provide transportation but McBride did not give the proper notice.

After the hearing, Brown terminated McBride’s parental rights on several grounds, including that despite attempts by DHS at reunification, McBride had failed to take advantage of the opportunity. Brown also said other factors demonstrated that the return of the child to McBride was “contrary to his health, safety or welfare and that McBride had manifested the incapacity or indifference to remedy the subsequent issues or factors or rehabilitate her circumstances that prevented the return of J.M. to her custody.”

In her appeal, McBride said she had made progress in her efforts to regain custody and cited her ninth-grade education and disability as reasons she should have been given more time.

Writing for the Appeals Court, Judge Bill Walmsley said testimony at the hearing showed McBride had made minimal progress, been arrested on drug charges only two months before the hearing, delayed seeking drug treatment until the last minute and visited her infant son only nine times since he left the hospital.

“Although McBride asserts a failure on DHS’s part to provide reunification services, the evidence shows that McBride failed to take advantage of various services offered by DHS,” Walmsley said in the ruling.