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In re A.C.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

March 2, 2017






         Appellant M.F. (Mother) appeals the trial court's judgment terminating her parental rights to her daughter, A.C. (Ally).[2] Although Mother's brief does not contain an explicit issue statement, we construe the brief as raising a single contention: that the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to prove that termination is in Ally's best interest. We conclude that the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support the trial court's finding that termination of Mother's parental rights is in Ally's best interest, so we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background Facts

         Mother met Father in 2013, conceived Ally with him, and gave birth to her in June 2015. She has three older children, each of whom has a history with the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS or the Department). Mother's parental rights to the child closest to Ally in age, M.F. (Mark), [3] were terminated in March 2016 with findings that Mother had knowingly placed or allowed him to remain in conditions or surroundings that had endangered his physical or emotional well-being and had engaged in conduct or knowingly placed him with persons who engaged in conduct that had endangered his physical or emotional well-being. Mother maintains her parental rights to two older children, T.F. and J.F.

         In October 2015, when Ally was five months old, DFPS received a referral alleging inadequate supervision of her. The referral alleged that Ally had been living with her maternal grandmother (who also cared for Mother's oldest two children) but had been allowed to have unsupervised contact with Mother and Father despite the fact that Father had a history of abusing children and had been barred by DFPS from having unsupervised access to children. The referral further alleged that one of Mother's children had been engaging in behavioral problems in the home; that Mother and Father had been arguing; and that as a result of the argument, Mother was attempting to send Father to jail.

         Jasmine McDonald, an investigator with DFPS, talked with the maternal grandmother and Mother, and both of them denied that Mother and Father had enjoyed unsupervised access to the children. But one of the children in the home told McDonald that he, his brother, and Ally had been with Mother and Father unsupervised. Another child said that Ally had been with Mother without the supervision of the maternal grandmother. Mother acknowledged to McDonald that she was aware that Father had a history of abusing children. The Department removed Ally from her maternal grandmother's care[4] while finding a "reason to believe" that Mother had neglected her supervision of Ally.

         DFPS filed a petition in which it sought termination of Mother's parental rights to Ally if reunification between them could not be achieved. The trial court signed an order naming DFPS as Ally's temporary sole managing conservator and appointing an attorney ad litem to represent her. The court also appointed counsel to represent Mother.

         The Department filed a family service plan. The service plan expressed the Department's concern that Ally was too young to provide for or protect herself and that Mother had shown mental instability and poor choices that had placed Ally at risk of harm. The service plan required Mother to, among other acts, maintain consistent contact with her caseworker, complete parenting classes, maintain safe and stable housing, maintain employment, and complete a psychological evaluation and individual counseling. Before trial, the trial court signed a permanency order stating that Mother had not demonstrated adequate compliance with the service plan.

         At a bench trial in August 2016, Mother, who was twenty-eight years old at that time, testified that she had recently lived with her mother, with a friend, and then back with her mother. Mother testified that the friend she had lived with was named Emily, but Mother did not know Emily's last name. Mother testified that she was no longer involved with Father in any way (except for seeing him while visiting Ally) and that she had separated from him near the time that she became pregnant with Ally. Mother admitted that she knew that Father had a criminal history and that he was not allowed to have unsupervised access to children. When she was asked whether she had any concerns about Father, she replied, "At one point I did but we're not together. So . . . I'm not here to talk about him. I'm here to talk about my daughter."

         Mother testified that she does not have a driver's license and that she relies on her mother to provide transportation. She stated that she is currently employed alongside her mother as a custodian at two sports stadiums and that she has previously been employed with a phone company, a store, and a restaurant. But Mother admitted that she had not provided proof of her employment to DFPS, and she testified that she forgot to bring such proof to trial.

         Mother conceded that she had not completed a psychological evaluation or individual counseling even though DFPS had asked her to do so as part of both Ally's and Mark's cases and even though her caseworker had told her that doing so was important. She stated that her job schedule had prevented her from doing so. She acknowledged that she had violated a court order in Mark's case by not completing the psychological evaluation and counseling. She testified, however, that she had completed a psychiatric assessment, a drug and alcohol assessment, and parenting classes. Mother conceded that as of the date of the trial, she did not have stable housing. When Mother was asked whether it was in Ally's best interest to "keep waiting" on her to complete the services, Mother said no. After Ally's removal, Mother was entitled to have weekly visits with her, but Mother acknowledged at trial that she had missed some of the visits.

         After the trial concluded, the trial court signed a judgment terminating Mother's parental rights to Ally. Among other findings, the trial court found that termination of the parent-child ...

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