Appeal from the 314th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2015-05394J
consists of Justices Jennings, Higley, and Massengale.
Michael Massengale Justice
an accelerated appeal from a decree terminating parental
rights. In her only viable appellate issue, the mother
asserts that the evidence was legally and factually
insufficient to show that termination was in the best
interest of her child. See Tex. Fam. Code §
161.001(b). We find sufficient evidence to support the trial
court's decree, and we affirm.
mother in this case gave birth to a son, A.H.L., at 27
weeks' gestation. Due to complications of prematurity,
the child spent the first four months of his life in the
hospital. The mother was 37 years old, and she had
schizoaffective disorder, for which she was receiving care
from a psychiatrist and taking medication.
the baby was in the hospital, nurses and others observed the
mother's behavior. At times, she refused to touch the
child because she believed "the devil was inside of
him." She required reminders to visit him. She did not
feed him or change his diaper as was expected of parents by
hospital staff. Instead, she had the nurses feed and change
him. She refused to stay overnight with the baby when his
doctor asked her to demonstrate her ability to care for him.
When hospital staff sought permission to administer routine
vaccinations, she accused them of abusing the baby.
one visit, the hospital staff became concerned for the
baby's well-being upon discharge. The mother did not know
the day, date, or time, and she was delusional, paranoid, and
agitated. She spoke rapidly, and her thoughts were jumbled.
In addition to this unusual behavior, the mother had not
demonstrated an ability to care for her child, and the
hospital staff were uncertain about the conditions the baby
would encounter upon release from the hospital.
referral for neglectful supervision was made to the
Department of Family and Protective Services, and a
caseworker investigated. The caseworker saw A.H.L. at the
hospital, and she reported that the baby was generally in
good health except for a lingering bowel issue. The
caseworker saw the mother ten days later at the home she
shared with her disabled aunt. The mother told the caseworker
that she was on maternity leave, but she had made no
preparations in anticipation of the baby's discharge from
the hospital. Although the infant was expected to be released
from the hospital soon, the only baby item in the
mother's possession was a bottle of baby oil. The mother
told the caseworker that the baby would go home with a woman
named Felisha Davis, but no contact information for this
woman was provided.
caseworker asked the mother about her criminal and
mental-health history. Despite having several prior criminal
convictions, the mother denied having any criminal history.
She admitted that she had schizophrenia and that she took
Haloperidol, an antipsychotic medication. She refused to sign
a release to allow the Department to obtain her medical
records because she did not like the texture of the paper.
She also complained that the caseworker failed to offer an
interpreter or ask her which language she preferred, even
though she spoke only English.
on the investigation, baby A.H.L. was placed in foster care
upon discharge from the hospital. While the infant had bonded
with a nurse in the hospital, when he entered foster care he
initially had difficulty bonding with his caregivers.
Gradually, he bonded with his foster mother, and he began
making eye contact, grabbing her hand, and smiling.
addition to bonding issues, A.H.L. had medical issues. When
he entered foster care, he had asthma, a bleeding eye, and
bowel issues. He required surgery for a hernia and to correct
tongue and lip ties. He regularly saw a gastroenterologist
for acid reflux and an otolaryngologist due to frequent ear
infections, concerns about his hearing, and the possible need
for ear tubes and adenoid removal.
he had spent months in the hospital, A.H.L. had developmental
delays. He experienced feeding difficulties and required
expensive formula. His strength was asymmetrical, and he had
both torticollis (twisted neck) and plagiocephaly (flat head
syndrome). As he grew, he began to sit and crawl, but because
of delays in reaching developmental milestones, he received
both occupational and physical therapy.
Advocates became involved not long after A.H.L. was released
from the hospital, and Child Advocate Laura Beth Nelson was
assigned to the case at the end of October 2015. Nelson did
not testify at trial, but her June 2016 report was admitted
into evidence. In it Nelson observed that the mother had
participated in supervised visits, but she expressed concern
as to whether the mother understood the care required to
address the baby's health needs. She also observed that
the foster caregiver ensured that ...