Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana
IN THE INTEREST OF M.L.R-U., JR., M.U-T., JR., AND G.L.C.U., CHILDREN
Submitted: March 7, 2017
Appeal from the 196th District Court Hunt County, Texas Trial
Court No. 82513
Morriss, C.J., Moseley and Burgess, JJ.
K. Burgess Justice
suit brought by the Texas Department of Family and Protective
Services (the Department), the trial court terminated
Sadie's parental rights to her three children, M.R.,
M.T., and G.U. In her sole point of error, Sadie argues
that there was insufficient evidence to support the trial
court's termination order. For the reasons below, we
affirm the trial court's judgment.
Sufficient Evidence Exists to Support Termination of
Sadie's Parental Rights.
January 24, 2015, Russell Thompson, a night response worker
for the Department, was dispatched to the home of the
children's aunt for an investigation on a complaint of
neglectful supervision. Thompson testified that when he arrived
at the residence, Sadie informed him that she and her three
children resided in the home, along with two other adults and
three other children, all of whom were family members.
Thompson described the residence as a "substandard,
" "wood-framed[, ] storage[-]shed building."
Thompson immediately noticed that there was no electricity in
the residence and that the inside of the house was very cold.
Sadie informed Thompson that the residence had been without
electricity for two weeks.
Thompson entered the kitchen area, he noticed that there was
no refrigerator. He was told, however, that the refrigerator
was located on the porch. Thompson testified that there was
no food in the kitchen, but that he observed food for the
family dog. Sadie explained to Thompson that there had been
no food in the home for an indefinite period of time.
Thompson observed a love seat in the living area, but noted
that there were no beds in the home. Sadie informed Thompson
that the children slept in a "pack-and-play."
Thompson stated that the front yard was "bare dirt"
and "looked like it was more of a parking area."
Sadie informed Thompson that she did not work and that she
was not receiving child support from any of the
testified that Sadie was uncooperative and that "it was
like pulling teeth to get any kind of answer out of her at
all." He stated that the adults in the residence were
"very resistive, " but that he "get[s] that a
lot and that's neither here nor there." Thompson was
unable to move the children to a more appropriate place
because Sadie and another adult on the premises removed the
children while Thompson was speaking to the children's
Delagado, a Department investigator, testified that she also
visited the residence in January. When she arrived at the
home, three adults were present, but the children were not in
the home. Delagado stated, "There was no utilities.
There was, really, nothing working. No heater, no beds. There
was only a couch in the living room." Based on what she
observed, Delagado testified that the residence was an
inappropriate place for children. Sadie informed Delagado
that the children had been staying with her brother, Daniel,
since the initial report had been made. Upon learning of the
children's whereabouts, Delagado proceeded with a
parental child-safety placement, which meant she would be
formally placing the children with the brother in order to allow
Sadie "to be working some services."
stated that around February 4, Daniel sent a text message to
her informing her that he was in the process of placing the
children back with Sadie because the utilities at the home
were working and because there was adequate food for the
children. Upon receiving his message, Delagado went back to
the home in which Sadie had been residing in order to verify
Daniel's representations. When Delagado arrived, she
found that the utilities were working, there was a playpen
for the youngest child, and "a place for the older kids.
They had one bed, which both of them could fit in that same
bed." Delagado also noted that there was food in the
home for the children. Sadie informed Delagado that her
mother and father had provided her with money to pay for the
food and utilities. At that time, Delagado was advised to
leave the children in the home and to request a family-team
meeting since Sadie's mother and father were now involved
in the situation.
after Delagado's visit, the parties appeared for the
family-team meeting, and a "safety plan" was
created for Sadie and the children. Sadie's mother agreed
to pay the necessary bills, and Sadie agreed to search for
employment. Based on the home visits, the Department deemed
the allegation of physical neglect to be "valid";
however, because of assurances made at the family-team
meeting, the case was closed.
October 22, 2015, Tabetha Sims, an investigator for the
Department, was dispatched to the residence where Sadie and
the children were residing. Upon entry into the residence,
Sims observed a single light on in the kitchen, but noticed
that none of the other lights were working. Sims later
determined that the working light was attached to an
extension cord that led outside of the house. Sims observed
an odor in the home, and when she lifted the lid of the
toilet, she "observed an abundance of feces and
urine." Sims also found that there was no running water
available in the residence. Sims stated that this type of
living environment could be a hazard to young
children. Sims observed opened cans on the kitchen
counter, which contained "jagged edges all the way
around." Sims testified that there was only one twin bed
in the entire home and that thirteen people were currently
living there. Sadie informed Sims that she and her three
children slept in the twin bed.
stated that all of the occupants, including Sadie, acted in a
"[h]ostile" manner toward her. Sims asked Sadie to
provide her name and date of birth, but she refused to do so.
Sims testified that other than cursing and screaming at her,
Sadie refused to talk to her; however, Sadie did eventually
provide the children's names and dates of birth. Based on
what she had observed and after speaking to her supervisor
and the program director, Sims proceeded with an emergency
removal notice, which allowed the Department to take
temporary custody of the children.
Sims attempted to issue the removal notice, Sadie left with
one of the children, but law enforcement officers quickly
convinced her to return to the property. When she returned,
Sadie was belligerent, combative, and refused to sign any
paperwork, but she agreed to come to the Department with the
children. Sims testified that Sadie and the other adults in
the home were referring to Sims as "a dyke and a
lesbian" and that they informed the children that Sims
"was going to rape them and molest them and possibly
kill them." On cross-examination, Sims testified that
when she visited Sadie's residence, the children were not
in need of medical care. Sims agreed that there had been food
in the kitchen cabinets at the time of her
visit. Sims also stated that she did not believe
the children were malnourished to the point of requiring the
care of a physician.
Arbogast, a caseworker for the Department, was assigned to
Sadie's case on March 18, 2016. When Arbogast initially
received Sadie's case, she questioned whether her
parental rights should be terminated. Arbogast stated,
[Sadie] had worked through her services. By the time I got
the case in March, she had completed her psychologic
evaluation. She had completed two parenting classes. She had
tested negative on three -- two separate occasions, three
drug tests. She had been going to counseling and actually was
discharged at the point with a recommendation that she be
reunified with her children. She had been coming to visits --
I think there were only two that was relayed to me that she
had missed at that point.
testified that she believed Sadie needed "to stand on
her own two . . . feet as far as housing goes." Arbogast
stressed to Sadie that she needed to change the conditions in
which the children were living and that she needed to find
employment. Arbogast stated, "Initially she was
receptive and understood it -- or at least I thought she
did." Sadie eventually found a job with a grain company,
but lost her job shortly after she acquired it. Despite
reiterating to Sadie that she needed to find employment to
regain custody of her children, Sadie failed to do so. At the
time of trial, Sadie remained unemployed.
also voiced her concerns over Sadie's behavior during
visits with the children.
I actually had to go in and intervene and let her know that
she needed to put the cell phone away because previously we
had gone over visitation rules and one of the big rules that
we have is that no cell phones are allowed to be used in the
visitation room because that's a time with your children.
testified that after she asked Sadie to discontinue her cell
phone use, "She was a little frustrated[, ] but she did
put the cell phone away."
stated that Sadie was "a little slow to comprehend some
of the things [they] were explaining to her" and that
her behavior was a concern. Arbogast explained to Sadie that
she should participate in a mental-health evaluation because
she thought Sadie might be eligible for Social Security
benefits based on the results of the evaluation. Sadie
responded by informing ...