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In re B. L. D.-O.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

March 9, 2017


         On appeal from the 25th District Court of Lavaca County, Texas.

          Before Justices Contreras, Benavides, and Longoria


          DORI CONTRERAS Justice

         In this appeal, appellant B.D. challenges the termination of his parental rights to B.L.D.-O., a minor child.[1] By a single issue, appellant argues that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support findings under parts (D), (E), and (O) of subsection 161.001(b)(1) of the Texas Family Code. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (O) (West, Westlaw through 2015 R.S.). We affirm.

         I. Background

         B.L.D.-O. was born on December 9, 2014 to his mother, K.M.O. On May 1, 2015, the Department of Family Protective Services (the Department) filed a petition alleging that B.D. is the child's father and seeking to terminate the parental rights of both parents under various provisions of family code subsection 161.001(b)(1). See id. § 161.001(b)(1)(C)-(E), (K), (N)-(P).

         At a bench trial on November 7, 2016, Kendra Leazer testified that she has been the Department caseworker assigned to this matter since October 2015. Leazer stated that she has not had any contact with B.D. since she became involved with the case because "[h]e's been incarcerated." According to Leazer, a family service plan was prepared for B.D. which required him to, among other things, complete a parenting course, a drug and alcohol assessment, individual counseling, a psychological evaluation, and a batterer's intervention program. The service plan further required B.D. to refrain from criminal conduct, to participate in visitation with B.L.D.-O., to provide a safe and stable home environment, and to undergo random drug screenings. Leazer testified that B.D. reviewed and signed the service plan. However, according to Leazer, B.D. did not complete any of the requested services "other than minimal drug testing when he was not incarcerated" which was administered by a prior caseworker.

         The service plan, containing B.D.'s signature and dated August 6, 2015, was entered into evidence. The record also contains temporary orders, dated June 19, 2015 and also signed by B.D., containing many of the same requirements and also generally requiring compliance with the service plan.

         Leazer additionally testified that, in February 2015, B.D. told a Department investigator that "he had recently been in rehab for abusing methamphetamines." The child was brought into the Department's care at that time and "[s]ervices were put into place to try to mitigate the concerns for the safety and well being of the child." On August 31, 2015, B.D. admitted to the prior caseworker that he had used methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana, and that "he had never been sober longer than six months, except while he was in jail."

         Leazer stated that, in September 2015, B.D. "went on a crime spree where he evaded arrest and detention, broke into a habitation, [and] had an unauthorized use of a vehicle." According to Leazer, B.D. admitted to the prior caseworker that he "had taken seven Xanax" during the "crime spree." Leazer identified copies of three judgments dated December 8, 2015, showing that B.D. had been convicted of four different felony offenses: unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, theft of property, and theft of a firearm, each a state-jail felony; and burglary of a habitation, a second-degree felony. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 30.02, 31.03, 31.07 (West, Westlaw through 2015 R.S.). The judgments, which were entered into evidence, showed that the state-jail felony offenses were committed on September 1, 2015, and the burglary was committed on September 2, 2015.

         Leazer testified that she visited B.L.D.-O. in August of 2016, that he is "well-bonded" with his caregivers, who are K.M.O.'s aunt and uncle, and that it is in the child's best interests to be adopted by them. Leazer stated that B.D. is not a part of the child's life and has not visited with the child during the time the case has been pending.

         According to Leazer, B.D. could have completed "a large majority" of the tasks required of him by the service plan either during the time that he was not incarcerated, or during his incarceration with services provided at "most Texas correctional facilities."

         B.D. testified that he completed a parenting class and drug rehabilitation program and passed "multiple" random drug tests while he was incarcerated. He stated that he completed his GED in September of 2016 and he completed the Substance Abuse Felony Program (SAFP) in October of 2016. He testified that, while he was incarcerated, he completed all of the services that were required by the service plan and which were available to him. He stated that he was going to a halfway house the day after the trial. B.D. stated that he had never met Leazer and has not provided her or his attorney with certificates showing the completion of any programs required by the service plan.

         When asked by his attorney why termination of his parental rights was not in the child's best ...

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