IN THE INTEREST OF J.E., JR. AND M.D.E., CHILDREN
Appeal from the 313th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2015-06056J
consists of Justices Boyce, Busby, and Wise.
trial court terminated the parental rights of M.C.
("Mother") and J.E. ("Father") with
respect to their children, John and Mark,  and appointed the
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("the
Department") to be the children's managing
conservator. Mother appeals, challenging the sufficiency of
the evidence to support the finding that termination was in
the children's best interest. She concedes the
sufficiency of the evidence to support the findings on the
predicate statutory bases for termination, and she does not
challenge the Department's appointment as managing
conservator. Father does not appeal. We affirm.
October 2015, Mother left five-year-old John and
four-year-old Mark with a neighbor and said she would be back
in two hours. When she had not returned after five days, the
neighbor called the police, who in turn notified the
Department. The neighbor reported that the boys were outside
alone regularly and would ask neighbors for food. The
neighbor also said Mother is known to work as a prostitute in
investigator Shemika Peoples met with John and Mark at a
Department office. Both boys reportedly could say only
"five" and "mama." The boys were unkempt
but showed no signs of physical abuse. They played well
was found at a motel. Peoples said Mother had severe bruising
on her eye, a swollen lip, and a swollen face. According to
Peoples, Mother said she was beaten up by a man who tried to
rob her while she was prostituting herself. Neighbors,
however, suspected Mother's boyfriend assaulted her.
Mother explained that she left the children so she could earn
money to pay for a place to stay. She believed it was better
for the children to be with the neighbor than to have to move
from motel to motel with her.
was administered an instant oral swab drug test that day. The
test was positive for cocaine. Mother admitted she used
"a little" cocaine three days earlier. Peoples
asked Mother to take another drug test the following day, but
Mother failed to appear at the testing facility.
B. Department and criminal history
Mother and Father had history with the Department. The record
reflects the following two referrals.
when John was born in September 2010, the Department received
a referral alleging Mother admitted using cocaine for several
months throughout her pregnancy. She was negative for drugs
at the time of John's birth. The Department referred the
case to its Family Based Safety Services ("FBSS")
division. Mother completed parenting classes through FBSS.
When she became pregnant again in early 2011, she took
prenatal vitamins and received prenatal medical care.
Father was reported to the Department in February 2012 for
allegedly sexually assaulting a five-year-old girl. According
to the girl's mother, Mother and Father fled to Mexico to
avoid the investigation. The Department ruled the case
"unable to determine."
Mother's boyfriend, and Father also had a history of
criminal activity. Mother's crimes were typically related
to prostitution or possession of small quantities of illegal
drugs. The boyfriend's criminal record included
convictions for theft, burglary, and assault of a family
member. Father was in prison due to his December 2014
conviction for indecency with a child. He was scheduled for
release in June 2018.
to locate Mother for several days, the Department filed this
lawsuit. The boys were placed with their maternal great-uncle
("Uncle") in early November 2015. They remained
with Uncle for the duration of the case.
removal, the trial court signed an order requiring both
parents to comply with any family service plan by the
Department. Mother's service plan identified the tasks
and services she needed to complete before the children could
be returned to her care. The plan required Mother to submit
to random drug testing; refrain from participating in
criminal activity or interacting with people who have a
history of drug use; obtain and maintain suitable employment,
or enroll in a training program to make herself more
employable; obtain and maintain stable housing for at least
six months; undergo substance-abuse and psychosocial
assessments and follow the assessors' recommendations;
participate in individual therapy and follow the
therapist's recommendations; complete a parenting class;
maintain regular contact with the Department; pay any child
support ordered by the court; attend and participate in all
hearings, permanency conferences, scheduled visitations, and
requested meetings; and maintain contact with her caseworker.
caseworker Dessa Parker and Uncle testified at trial. Among
the documents admitted into evidence without objection were
Mother's family service plan, judgments of criminal
convictions for Mother and Father, and medical records
regarding Mother's pregnancy with John. The trial court
took judicial notice of all its orders in this case. See
In re K.F., 402 S.W.3d 497, 504-05 (Tex. App.-Houston
[14th Dist.] 2013, pet. denied) (trial court is permitted to
take judicial notice in a termination case). Neither Mother
nor Father appeared personally at trial, called witnesses, or
testified that Mother failed to complete any of her service
plan's requirements. Though she had a calling schedule,
Mother had not called the children for six or seven months.
She never visited them or provided any support for them.
Parker believed termination of Mother's parental rights
was in the boys' best interest because Mother had not
shown any interest in caring for her children, nor had she
demonstrated she could provide them a safe and stable home.
contrast, Parker testified, Uncle was meeting John's and
Mark's physical and emotional needs. The boys were
strongly bonded with Uncle and were doing very well in his
home. In addition to the speech delays noted at the time of
removal, the boys had learning disabilities and difficulty
socializing. They were both receiving speech therapy at home
and in school, were enrolled in special education classes,
and had received counseling throughout the year.
he lived several hours away, Uncle attended every court
hearing. He wanted to adopt the children, which the
Department believed would be in John's and Mark's
best interest. Uncle said he would protect the boys in part
by keeping them safe from ...