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In re C.A.L.H.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

February 28, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF C.A.L.H. AKA C.H., A CHILD

         On Appeal from the 314th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2015-06351J

          Panel consists of Justices Boyce, Jamison, and Brown.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          William J. Boyce Justice.

         Appellant L.F.H. ("Mother") appeals the trial court's final decree terminating her parental rights and appointing the Department of Family and Protective Services ("the Department") as sole managing conservator of C.A.L.H. ("the Child"). Mother's parental rights were terminated on the predicate grounds of endangerment, abandonment, and failure to comply with a family service plan. The trial court further found that termination of Mother's rights was in the best interest of the Child. In four issues Mother challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's findings on the predicate grounds, and that termination is in the best interest of the Child. We affirm because the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support the trial court's findings that (1) Mother's persistent drug use endangered the Child's physical or emotional well-being; and (2) termination is in the Child's best interest.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Pretrial Proceedings

         The Child was removed from Mother's care when she was three years old. A neighbor heard the Child screaming and climbed through a window to get her. The Child was home alone. The pretrial removal affidavit noted that the Child had been left alone before. The affidavit also noted that Mother was using drugs and allowing strangers to come in the home to use drugs. Mother denied leaving the Child at home alone but admitted marijuana and PCP use. Mother questioned why she was being drug-tested when everyone who lives around her uses drugs. Mother told the investigator she did not believe anyone went into her home through a window to get the Child. Mother reported "that whoever called in on her is a 'hater' and is 'lying on her.'"

         The investigator interviewed the Child, who reported that she went to school, her mother cooked, and there was enough food in the home. The Child was able to get to and from school every day with her Mother and said the house always was clean. The Child was free of marks and bruises and was developmentally on target. The Child denied being home alone and denied seeing the neighbor come into the house.

         The investigator spoke with Shontel Shaylon Nelson, one of Mother's neighbors. It is unclear from the investigation whether Nelson is the neighbor who made the initial report to the Department. Nelson said she was going to the store to get a beer between midnight and 1:00 a.m. when she was told by another neighbor that the Child could be heard crying. Nelson went in through the kitchen window to investigate, but did not hear the Child crying and saw her asleep in her bed. Nelson left the apartment through the front door and saw Mother outside in her car talking with a friend. Mother got out of her car and hit Nelson, telling Nelson she should not have been in her apartment. The report notes that "Nelson believes that the other neighbors are jealous of [Mother] and that is why CPS was called."

         The Department received an earlier referral when the Child was born. Both Mother and Child tested positive for PCP when the Child was born. Mother completed services through Family Based Safety Services, and the Child was returned.

         The report concluded that due to Mother's drug use, the Department believed the Child had been placed in immediate danger of physical health and safety. The Department requested that it be named temporary managing conservator of the Child.

         The trial court signed an order removing the Child from the home and naming the Department temporary managing conservator of the Child. Following an adversary hearing, the trial court ordered Mother to comply with a family service plan to obtain the return of the Child. The service plan required Mother to:

• cooperate with the Department, and make reasonable efforts to refrain from any and all criminal and illegal activity;
• complete individual counseling to address her grief/loss regarding her other child not being in her care;[1]
• maintain six consecutive months or more of suitable housing that is safe, clean, organized, with operational utilities, and free of hazards;
• maintain six consecutive months or more of stable employment or demonstrate she is enrolled in a vocational or educational training program to make herself more employable;
• maintain two supervised visitations with the Child per month;
• submit to random drug and alcohol testing;
• attend and participate in all court hearings, permanency conferences, family group conferences, mediations, and any other meetings requested by CPS;
• maintain monthly contact with the caseworker;
• complete a substance abuse assessment;
• locate, attend, and successfully complete parenting classes; and
• actively participate in a psychosocial evaluation to determine the status of her emotional, mental, and intellectual functioning.

         The final permanency report before trial noted that Mother had not demonstrated adequate and appropriate ...


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