IN THE INTEREST OF S.R.G., J.A.G., AND C.J.G., CHILDREN
Appeal from the 313th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2015-05307J.
consists of Justices Christopher, Busby, and Jewell.
trial court terminated the parental rights of J.M.J.
("Mother") and A.G.G. ("Father") with
respect to their children, Sarah, Julia, and Charlie,
appointed the Texas Department of Family and Protective
Services ("the Department") to be the
children's managing conservator. On appeal, Mother
challenges the factual sufficiency of the evidence to support
the trial court's finding that termination of her
parental rights is in the children's best interest.
Father challenges the factual and legal sufficiency of the
evidence to support the trial court's findings on the
predicate grounds for termination and the best-interest
finding. Neither parent challenges the Department's
appointment as managing conservator. We affirm.
20, 2015, the Department received a report alleging then
four-month-old Charlie had bruising around his eyes. Mother
said the bruising occurred two nights earlier, while she was
out for the evening and Charlie was in Father's care at
Mother's home. When she returned home the next morning
and saw the bruises, Mother said, she instructed Father to
leave. Father gave a different account. He said Charlie's
eyes were fine the night before. Father said he woke up
around 6:00 a.m. and saw Mother taking Charlie into the
living room. An hour or two later, hearing Charlie crying,
Father went to the living room and found Charlie's head
stuck between the couch and the ottoman. Father believed
Charlie "scooted his way" into that space.
caseworker Cierra Davis observed all three children to be
clean and well-nourished. Davis interviewed Sarah and Julia,
then ages six and four, respectively. Both girls said they
were afraid when Father stayed in their home. Sarah also said
Father hit Mother. The girls reported Father disciplined them
by spanking them. Sarah said nobody in the home used drugs or
alcohol; Julia did not know what drugs or alcohol were.
the conflicting accounts of how Charlie was injured and the
parents' history with the Department (discussed below),
the children were placed with Mother's parents a few days
later as part of a Parental Child Safety Placement while the
Department continued its investigation. The trial court
appointed the Department to be the children's temporary
managing conservator at the end of September 2015. The
children remained with their maternal grandparents.
History of domestic violence
2014, the Department received a report of neglectful
supervision and physical abuse of Sarah and Julia. The report
arose from an argument between Mother and Father that turned
physically violent. Father punched Mother in the face and
choked her until she scratched his face and neck in
self-defense. Father then put a knife to Mother's throat.
He was still holding the knife when police officers arrived.
Mother told investigators Father had previously threatened
her at gunpoint and told her not to leave him. The case was
referred to the Department's Family Based Safety Services
has a long history of arrests for domestic violence. He has
been convicted at least three times for assaulting Mother.
Father said the assaults were "mutual."
Family service plans
appointing the Department as the children's temporary
managing conservator, the trial court signed an order
requiring both parents to comply with any family service plan
by the Department. Each service plan identified the tasks and
services the parent needed to complete before the children
could be returned to his or her care.
parents' plans required them to:
• complete a parenting class;
• obtain and maintain suitable employment and stable
• complete a substance abuse assessment and follow the
• submit to random drug testing;
• complete a psychosocial evaluation and follow the
• maintain regular contact with the caseworker; and
• make reasonable efforts to attend and participate in
all hearings, permanency conferences, scheduled visitations,
and requested meetings.
parents were required to complete individual or group
counseling regarding domestic violence-Mother for victims and
Father for perpetrators. Father's plan additionally
required him to complete an anger-management class.
was held in October 2016. The Department presented testimony
from Mother, Father, and caseworker Jennifer Lombardi. Its
documentary evidence included the parents' service plans,
judgments of criminal convictions for Father, and drug test
results for Mother, Father, and the children's maternal
grandparents. Mother presented testimony from Tom Austin of
Santa Maria Hostel, a residential substance abuse treatment
facility. Father did not call witnesses.
testified at length about her 13-year relationship with
Father. He first assaulted her early in their relationship.
Despite his violence toward her, Mother stayed with Father
and had three children with him. She saw him physically
discipline the children but never saw him act violently
toward them. She said she was not thinking rationally during
her time with Father. Mother and Father were not dating at
the time of ...