Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
IN THE INTEREST OF E.E.H., E.E.H., J.A.M., F.V.M., Children
the 57th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2015-PA-02107 Honorable Richard Garcia, Judge
Sitting: Marialyn Barnard, Justice, Luz Elena D. Chapa,
Justice, Irene Rios, Justice.
Marialyn Barnard, Justice.
an accelerated appeal from the trial court's order
terminating appellant mother's ("Mother")
parental rights to her children, E.E.H., E.E.H., J.A.M., and
F.V.M. On appeal, Mother argues the evidence is legally and
factually insufficient to support the trial court's
finding that termination was in the best interests of her
children. We affirm the trial court's order of
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("the
Department") initially became involved in the underlying
matter after it received a referral alleging E.E.H., E.E.H.,
J.A.M., and F.V.M. were living in unsanitary and hazardous
conditions. The referral further alleged the children -
specifically, the twins, E.E.H. and E.E.H., who were both
having potty training accidents - were being inappropriately
disciplined. In addition to these allegations, the referral
alleged the children witnessed episodes of significant
domestic violence between Mother and Mother's husband,
Mr. M. At the time of the referral, the twins were
four-years-old, J.A.M. was two-years-old, and F.V.M. was
Meckler, a caseworker from the Department, visited the home
and spoke to Mother and Mr. M. regarding the allegations.
During her visit, Ms. Meckler made a number of observations.
Ms. Meckler first noted a large hole in a ramp placed against
the front doorway. The hole was large enough for an adult to
fall though, and below the ramp were a number of objects,
including pipes, trash, and metal. Inside the home, Ms.
Meckler also noted the lack of kitchen appliances; the family
was using portable coolers to hold drinks and snacks as well
as a microwave oven to reheat small meals. When asked about
the lack of food in the home, Mother stated they ate out each
day for their three meals. At the end of the visit, Mother
agreed to take the children out of the home and to stay with
Mr. M.'s brother while Mr. M. repaired the ramp. Mother
and Mr. M. also agreed they would live separately to avoid
any further confrontations.
days later, the Department received a second referral that
the police had arrested Mother for a domestic violence
incident. The referral alleged Mother had hit Mr. M. with a
belt, kicked him, and attacked him with a box cutter in front
of the children. The Department spoke to Mother at the Bexar
County jail, and Mother admitted there was an altercation
between her and Mr. M. in front of the children. While Mother
was in jail, the children were staying with Mr. M. at the
home. Thereafter, the Department removed the children from
the home, placing them at a children's shelter. Before
they were taken to the shelter, J.A.M. and F.V.M. were taken
to the children's hospital due to severe bleeding from
diaper rashes. At the time of removal, the Department was
unable to locate any family members willing to take the
same day, the Department filed its original petition for
protection of the children, for conservatorship, and for
termination of parental rights. The following day, the trial court
rendered an ex parte order designating the Department as
temporary managing conservator. The matter was set for a full
adversarial hearing a month later. At the hearing, the trial
court granted the Department temporary conservatorship and
awarded Mother weekly supervised visitation with the
children. Over the next couple of months, the required
statutory hearings were conducted, and Mother's
compliance with her service plan was noted. However, after
six months, the Department filed a report, expressing concern
that Mother was involved in a relationship with a registered
sex offender and continued to have ongoing issues with Mr. M.
final hearing, the trial court heard testimony from: (1) Ms.
Meckler; (2) Sandra Pierce, Mother's probation officer;
(3) Aurora Garcia, another Department caseworker involved
with the case; (4) a CASA advocate; (5) Mr. M.; and (6)
Mother. At the time of trial, Mother was pregnant and wearing
an ankle monitor because she had violated the terms of her
probation relating to the prior domestic violence arrest.
After hearing the testimony, the trial court rendered an
order terminating Mother's rights. The trial court found
Mother violated sections 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), and (O) of
the Texas Family Code ("the Code") and termination
was in the children's best interests. See Tex.
Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (O) (West Supp.
2016); id. § 161.001(b)(2). Thereafter, Mother
perfected this appeal.
appeal, Mother does not challenge the evidence with regard to
the trial court's findings under section 161.001(b)(1) of
the Code. See id. § 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (O).
Rather, Mother argues the evidence is legally and factually
insufficient to support the trial court's finding that
termination was in the best interests of her children.
See id. § 161.001(b)(2).