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In re D.T.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

May 11, 2017





          PER CURIAM

         I. Introduction

         This is an ultra-accelerated appeal[2] in which Appellant T.T. (Mother) appeals the termination of her parental rights to her son, Dylan.[3] In a single issue, Mother argues that the evidence is insufficient to support the trial court's best-interest finding. For the reasons set forth below, we will affirm.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Overview

         Prior to the termination trial regarding Dylan, Father gained legal custody of his and Mother's three older children-David, Alice, and Lily-due to Mother's drug use.[4] The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (the Department) removed Mother's youngest child, Dylan, from her possession because he was born addicted to methamphetamine. Mother failed to address her ongoing drug use and mental-health issues, leading ultimately to the termination of her parental rights to Dylan.[5] Because Mother challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's best-interest finding, we set forth a summary of the evidence.[6]

         B. Mother's Arrest in Nevada and Removal of Older Children

         While Mother and Father were living in Nevada, Mother took Lily to the store with her. Mother was arrested at the store for being under the influence of drugs, and the sheriff brought Lily to Father. Father left Mother in jail and moved to Texas with David, Alice, and Lily.

         Shortly after Father and the children arrived in Texas, CPS received a referral from the children's babysitter alleging that the children had unexplained bruises and marks on them. Latrecia Woods, a night investigator with CPS, testified that she spoke with Father who said that Mother had been arrested somewhere in Nevada, that she had issues with drugs, and that he did not have contact information for her. Woods learned that Father and Mother had a pending CPS case in Nevada. Woods removed the children and opened a CPS case on November 3, 2014.

         The following day, Woods obtained Mother's contact information and spoke with her. Mother said that she was in Nevada and had served forty-five days in jail. Mother explained her jail time by stating that she had gone to the store to get milk, that Father had left her there, and that she was crying and so emotional that the people at the store called the police to report her. Mother told Woods that Father had taken the children while she was in jail and that she had been looking for them ever since she was released. After Mother learned that a CPS case involving the three children had been opened in Texas, she and Maternal Grandmother moved to Texas from Nevada.

         C. Mother's Service Plan

         CPS caseworker Sheila Roberson testified that her initial concerns with Mother in November 2014 were her past CPS history in Nevada, her drug use, and her positive hair strand test. Roberson developed a service plan for Mother that required her to complete a drug and alcohol assessment, an assessment at MHMR, a psychiatric assessment, parenting classes, individual counseling, and New Day Services Motherhood Program; to attend visitation; to participate in random drug testing; to refrain from criminal activity; and to maintain contact with the Department. Roberson went over the service plan with Mother, who appeared agreeable to participating in the services. Mother went for the drug assessment in December 2014 and the MHMR assessment in January 2015. Mother did not, however, immediately start the inpatient treatment recommended by her drug assessment.

         D. Mother Gives Birth to Drug-Addicted Dylan

         In February 2015, Woods received a referral that Mother had given birth to Dylan. The referral alleged neglectful supervision and physical abuse of Dylan by Mother due to using methamphetamine while pregnant, to failing to obtain prenatal care, and to testing positive for amphetamines on a urine drug screen at delivery.[7] Woods testified that Dylan also tested positive for amphetamine. Woods went over the concerns of Mother's testing positive for amphetamines and Dylan's exhibiting signs of drug withdrawals, and Mother admitted that she had used methamphetamine while pregnant with Dylan. Mother told Woods that she had last used methamphetamine a week before she delivered, but Mother told hospital staff that she had binged on methamphetamine for the month prior to delivering Dylan. Although Mother told Woods that the father of Dylan was "some random drug head in Nevada, " paternity results revealed that Father was Dylan's father. Woods concluded that Mother was "reason to believe" for neglectful supervision of Dylan; Woods ruled out the allegation of physical abuse of Dylan by Mother.[8]

         E. Mother's Compliance with her Service Plan after Dylan's Birth

         Based on the drug assessment, Mother went to inpatient treatment at Pine Street in March 2015 but was unsuccessful. Mother stayed at Pine Street only one week because they wanted her to go to John Peter Smith Hospital for mental-health issues, and she did not initially want to go to JPS. Mother ultimately went to JPS in May 2015, and doctors there said that she needed medication. Mother later told Roberson that she was so high that she left JPS, flagged down a trucker, and went to Midland to live with her boyfriend. Mother stayed in Midland for the month of May[9] and then returned to Fort Worth for a hearing. Mother told Roberson during summer 2015 that she was continuing to use methamphetamine and marijuana.

         Roberson talked to Mother about engaging in services so that she could get the help she needed to address her mental-health issues and substance-abuse issues. Mother agreed to participate in her services but did not follow up.

         In the fall and winter of 2015, Mother lived with relatives and friends; every time Roberson talked to Mother, she was living someplace new. In December 2015, Mother told Roberson that she was moving to California "to get herself together" because she had more support there and would work her services there. After Mother moved to California, she never called Roberson and asked her to set up services in California. Roberson heard from Mother shortly after the beginning of 2016 but had not heard from her again until the first day of the trial-July 19, 2016-when Mother texted to find out what time the trial was scheduled.

         Throughout the case during Roberson's contacts with Mother, Mother continued to admit that she was still using methamphetamine. In August 2016, which was after the trial had started in July but before it was continued in September, Roberson asked Mother to complete a drug test, and Mother did not go take the test. Roberson ...

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