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In re R.N.P.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo

May 25, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF R.N.P., A CHILD

         On Appeal from the 316th District Court Hutchinson County, Texas Trial Court No. 41, 977; Honorable James Mosley, Presiding

          Before QUINN, C.J., and CAMPBELL and PIRTLE, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PATRICK A. PIRTLE JUSTICE

         Appellant, J.D.B., appeals the trial court's order terminating her parental rights to her son, R.N.P.[1] By her first issue, Appellant concedes there was sufficient evidence to support three of the four statutory grounds for termination. However, by her second issue, she challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's best interest finding. We affirm.

         Background

         Appellant has two children who are not quite yet teenagers. This appeal involves her son, who is twelve years old. His father is deceased. Appellant's daughter, J.K.H., who is the subject of a companion appeal, is eleven years old.[2]

         Appellant's saga begins in 2002, when she was convicted of possession of methamphetamines and placed on community supervision.[3] That same year, she met R.N.P.'s father and she eventually became pregnant. He was verbally and physically abusive toward Appellant. While she was pregnant, he was murdered and she moved in with her maternal grandmother. She gave birth to R.N.P. in 2004.

         In early 2005, Appellant was involved in a brief relationship that resulted in a second pregnancy. When she was seven months pregnant, her community supervision was revoked and she was incarcerated for approximately thirty days. During that time, R.N.P. was cared for by his great-grandmother. Later in 2005, Appellant gave birth to J.K.H. At that time, the infant and Appellant both tested positive for methamphetamines. The Department placed J.K.H. with Appellant's grandmother, who was still caring for R.N.P.

         In 2006, Appellant was again arrested for possession of methamphetamines and served twelve months in a state jail facility. She was released in 2007, and again arrested in 2008 for possession of methamphetamines. That case was not resolved until 2013 when Appellant received a six-month sentence. She was also incarcerated on a forgery charge. While she was incarcerated, her children were both placed at Boy's Ranch for six months.

         After her release from incarceration, in February 2014, she and her children moved to Kansas; however, she returned to Texas later that year and rented a house from her son's paternal grandfather. She remained employed for a few years mostly as a waitress. She began dating Daniel Loftis, and in January 2015, he moved in with her and the children.

         On May 20, 2015, an incident of domestic violence by Loftis against Appellant resulted in a report of neglectful supervision. While both were intoxicated, Loftis allegedly head-butted Appellant and bit her in the children's presence. Appellant called the police. There was some evidence that Loftis got physical with R.N.P., although Appellant testified she never saw Loftis hit her son.

         The Department, Appellant, and Loftis entered into a safety plan and agreed that Loftis would vacate Appellant's home for thirty days. Before the expiration of that period, the Department's investigator visited Appellant's home and believed that Loftis had spent the night there.[4] Violation of the safety plan resulted in removal of the children from the home. R.N.P. was placed in foster care while J.K.H. was placed with her father. Appellant moved in with her grandmother because Loftis refused to leave her home. She later reunited with Loftis, but after at least two more incidents of domestic violence, she called the police and he was incarcerated.

          More than a year after R.N.P. was removed from Appellant's care, a permanency review hearing was held on June 7, 2016. The trial court entered an order finding that Appellant had "demonstrated adequate and appropriate compliance with the service plan" and extended the dismissal date of the underlying case to permit Appellant to retake her OSAR evaluation. However, following a subsequent permanency review hearing held on September 29, 2016, the trial court found that Appellant had not "demonstrated adequate and appropriate compliance with the service plan." The Department moved forward with its case to terminate Appellant's parental rights.

         At the final hearing, Appellant admitted her substance abuse history, criminal history, and her past abusive relationships. The evidence established that she had completed all her services except for her in-patient substance abuse treatment. She excused her failure to complete her treatment with her grandmother's illness. Although she previously expressed an intent to return for treatment, she never did.

         Appellant testified that she was currently living with a new boyfriend who was providing a stable home and who had no criminal or substance abuse history. She testified that he, her preacher, and her NA and AA sponsors would provide her with a suitable support system.

         She candidly testified to being incarcerated eight times for driving without a valid license and not paying her fines. She has not had a valid driver's license for four years and is not eligible for one until 2018. She did testify she would engage counsel to assist her in obtaining an occupational driver's license. She further testified to ...


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