ARKANSAS COURT OF APPEALS
NOT DESIGNATED FOR PUBLICATION
ROBERT J. GLADWIN, JUDGE
PATRICIA COMBS and ALEX COMBS
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF
APRIL 30, 2008
APPEAL FROM THE CRAIGHEAD
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
HON. LARRY BOLING,
Appellants Patricia and Alex Combs appeal from the termination of their parental rights
in TC (born October 6, 2000), HC (born January 17, 2003), AC1 (born January 17, 2003),
AC2 (born January 5, 2004), and AC3 (born December 7, 2005). Patricia additionally appeals
from the termination of her parental rights in JR (born January 8, 1993) and MV (born
January 14, 1995). Appellants argue that the evidence was insufficient to support termination.
We disagree and affirm.
On June 12, 1997, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) opened its first
protective-services case on appellants’ family. DHS made two true findings against Patricia for
failure to protect JR and MV and one true finding against Patricia and Alex for substantial
possibility of child maltreatment during the pendency of the case.1 Appellants received
numerous services during this time, including homemaker services, medication management
(JR was receiving psychotropic medication), and parenting classes. The case was closed on
February 28, 2000.
On December 10, 2001, DHS opened a second protective-services case based on
educational neglect. According to a DHS witness, one of the children missed twenty-threeand-one-half days of school. DHS closed the case on March 14, 2002.
DHS opened a third protective-services case on November 24, 2004, after JR reported
that his parents inflicted bruises and abrasions on him. His accusation was not substantiated,
so the offender was listed as unknown. However, on October 7, 2005, DHS made a true
finding of Patricia’s physical abuse of MV and another child not involved in this case. DHS
again provided numerous services, including daycare, medication management, parenting,
transportation, and homemaker/house-cleaning skills.
The situation that led to the children’s removal from appellants’ home occurred during
the third protective-services case. The following story was recounted by DHS County
Supervisor Terri Blanchard at the termination hearing. On June 8, 2006, two DHS workers
visited appellants’ home at separate times and reported to Blanchard that things “had really
gotten bad.” Blanchard went to the home late that afternoon with caseworker Rashele Wade
and found the seven children, who ranged from infancy to thirteen years of age, home alone.
The older boys, thirteen-year-old JR and eleven-year-old MV, exhibited mental and
DHS also made several true findings of inadequate supervision, physical abuse, or
lockout of JR or MV by unknown offenders, relatives, or third persons.
emotional problems. Blanchard and Wade observed the younger children screaming and
banging on a broken window as though they were trying to get out of the house. MV would
not let Blanchard and Wade inside, and Blanchard called the police. About twenty minutes
later, Patricia Combs arrived after being gone for an unknown period (she was home earlier
in the day when the two DHS workers visited). Patricia first told Blanchard that her brother
was staying with the children, but she later admitted that was not true. She allowed Blanchard
to enter the house, and Blanchard discovered conditions that were unsanitary to the point of
being hazardous. Clothing and food were all over the beds and floors. The beds had no sheets.
A commode was not working; it had a beer bottle in it and was full of human waste. Rotten,
moldy food was on the stove and counter tops. When Blanchard opened the refrigerator, she
found open food with bugs and maggots. There were beer and liquor bottles throughout the
house and in the yard. The children were also filthy. The younger ones had full diapers that
had not been changed in a while.
Blanchard tried to work out a plan with Patricia to take the children to Patricia’s
mother’s house. However, Alex Combs arrived about this time and became angry. He cursed
Blanchard and Wade, threatening to kill them. Alex then went inside the house and shut the
door with Patricia and the children inside. Blanchard heard things being thrown around. The
children were screaming that they wanted out and were afraid. Blanchard and Wade managed
to get the door open, get the children out, and lock them in the police cars. Appellants
refused to give Blanchard car seats, medications, clothing, or any information about the
children. The children were taken to the DHS office and cleaned up. MV was hysterical
during this time and TC was afraid, telling the DHS workers that Alex had a gun and would
Approximately one month after the children’s removal, DHS made a true finding that
JR and MV had been sexually abusing the three girls, TC, AC1, and AC2, for some time.
Blanchard testified that the abuse occurred when the children were living with appellants.
Based on the incidents of June 8, 2006, DHS placed a seventy-two-hour hold on the
children and petitioned for emergency custody. The circuit court granted custody to DHS
and adjudicated the children dependent-neglected on August 1, 2006, finding that they were
inadequately supervised to the extent that they were at “imminent and significant risk of
severe maltreatment.” Custody remained with DHS, and the court reserved a ruling on the
goal of the case.
After the children were placed in foster care, appellants visited them regularly.
Caseworker Amanda Clark described the visitations as “wild,” with the children not minding
their parents. Clark said that, when she tried to discuss something with appellants, they would
“stare a hole” through her and not acknowledge that she had spoken. They asked her at some
point what they could do to get the children back. She explained that DHS would probably
proceed with termination of parental rights.
On October 2, 2006, DHS filed petitions to terminate appellants’ parental rights and
to be relieved of providing reunification services. The court relieved DHS from providing
reunification services on February 22, 2007, finding that there were “no services available to
offer to the parents to maintain the children in a safe environment were they to be returned
to the home.” The court stated that the goal of the case would be termination of parental
At the termination hearing, the court heard the above mentioned testimony from
Blanchard and Clark, plus Clark’s testimony that DHS had provided all conceivable services
to appellants and she could recommend no others. Clark also said DHS had a plan for
adoption of the five younger children and planned to actively seek a placement for MV, who
was in a foster home. JR was in the State Hospital in Little Rock and, according to Clark,
would qualify for services until he was eighteen. Several of appellants’ relatives and friends
testified that appellants were good parents and generally kept their house clean, though not
spotless because there were seven children living there. Some witnesses said that they had
never seen beer cans around the house or yard, and others testified that somebody was always
at home to supervise the children.
Alex Combs testified that he attended anger-management classes on the advice of his
attorney, though he did not think he needed them. He also said he had taken parenting
classes, which he completed in 2005. Alex introduced photographs of his and Patricia’s house,
showing that it had been cleaned up following the children’s removal. He denied threatening
DHS workers on June 8 and pointed out that he was not arrested even though police officers
were present. An affidavit from one of the officers was admitted without objection, and it
stated that the officer did not observe Alex making any threats to DHS workers or engaging
in any other criminal activity. Patricia Combs did not testify.
On July 26, 2007, the trial court entered a detailed order terminating Alex and Patricia
Combs’s parental rights in TC, HC, AC1, AC2, and AC3 and Patricia Combs’s parental rights
in JR and MV.2 The court found that termination was in the children’s best interest and that
grounds for termination existed, including that appellants subjected the children to aggravated
circumstances based on there being little likelihood that services would result in successful
reunification. This appeal followed.
Parental rights may be terminated if clear and convincing evidence shows that it is in
the children’s best interest. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3) (Repl. 2008). Additionally, one
or more statutory grounds must be shown by clear and convincing evidence. Smith v. Ark.
Dep’t of Human Servs., 100 Ark. App. 74, ___ S.W.3d ___ (2007). Clear and convincing
evidence is that degree of proof that will produce in the fact finder a firm conviction as to the
allegation sought to be established. Pierce, supra. When the burden of proving a disputed fact
is by clear and convincing evidence, the question on appeal is whether the trial court’s finding
that the disputed fact was proven by clear and convincing evidence was clearly erroneous. Id.
In resolving the clearly erroneous question, we give due regard to the opportunity of the trial
court to judge the credibility of witnesses. Id. Where there are inconsistencies in the
testimony presented at a termination hearing, the resolution of those inconsistencies is best
left to the trial judge, who heard and observed the witnesses first-hand. Id.
Appellants argue that their parental rights were terminated based on one isolated
incident when the children were left alone for twenty minutes. However, the children were
not removed simply because they were alone in the house on one occasion. The house was
in a state of total uproar and was in a condition so vile as to be dangerous. The children
The parental rights of MV’s biological father were also terminated. The parental
rights of JR’s biological father were not terminated, but the court maintained JR in DHS
themselves were also filthy. These conditions existed despite DHS’s provision of parenting
classes and housekeeping instruction and supplies to appellants over the past several years. See
Yarborough v. Ark. Dep’t of Human Servs., 96 Ark. App. 247, 240 S.W.3d 626 (2006) (affirming
termination of parental rights in part where the parents showed little prospect for
improvement despite several protective-services cases being opened and DHS’s provision of
services). Furthermore, Alex Combs cursed and threatened the lives of the DHS workers on
June 8, 2006, then went into the house, where he created such a commotion that the children
began screaming in fear. One child told DHS workers after she was removed from the house
that she feared Combs would shoot them. This violent behavior is disturbing enough standing
alone but even more so given Alex’s testimony that he did not think he needed angermanagement classes. Additionally, appellants failed to cooperate with DHS workers at the
scene and later when the workers tried to speak to them.
There was also evidence that Patricia Combs committed physical abuse, educational
neglect, or child maltreatment over the course of these protective-services cases. See
Yarborough, supra. The evidence at the termination hearing showed little prospect for
improvement. Terri Blanchard testified that Patricia said that she was “too damn tired” to get
her children to the daycare bus. A DHS court report also expressed concern that Patricia did
not give JR his medication properly and that she punished one of the girls when the child
reported to her that the older boys had abused her.
Appellants argue that, once the children were removed, DHS made no effort to work
with them or provide services. DHS provided numerous services to appellants off and on for
nearly ten years. Yet, these services apparently had little effect. By June 8, 2006, appellants’
home environment and parental conduct reached a point that the children’s health, safety, and
welfare were in danger if they were not removed. DHS workers testified that they could
think of no other services to offer appellants.
Appellants also argue that termination was not in JR and MV’s best interest because
there was little likelihood of adoption. As required by Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(A)
(Repl. 2008), the circuit court considered the likelihood of the children’s adoption in assessing
their best interests. Amanda Clark testified that DHS would actively seek adoption for MV,
who was in foster care. The court found that MV was adoptable but acknowledged that JR’s
prospects for adoption were “not very high.” However, JR was a patient at the State Hospital,
and Amanda Clark testified that he would qualify for services. Moreover, the parental rights
of JR’s biological father, Jessie Randall, were not terminated, and Randall testified that he
would be willing to take JR into his home.
Given the evidence at the termination hearing, we cannot say that the trial court
clearly erred in ruling that termination was in the children’s best interest and that there was
little likelihood that services to the family would result in successful reunification. Ark. Code
Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(ix)(a)(3)(A) and (B)(i) (Repl. 2008). See also Smith, supra; Yarbrough,
The trial court’s order terminating appellants’ parental rights is affirmed.3
GRIFFEN and BAKER, JJ., agree.
The ad litems ask us to dismiss the appeal for lack of a timely notice of appeal. We
denied the ad litems’ motion on December 12, 2007, and see no need to revisit our ruling.