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In re K. W. G.

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

June 6, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF K. W. G.

         On Appeal from the 314th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2015-07295J

          Panel consists of Justices Higley, Bland, and Brown.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HARVEY BROWN JUSTICE.

         This is an accelerated appeal from a decree terminating parental rights. The mother concedes the sufficiency of the evidence on all predicate findings but asserts that the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to show that termination was in the best interest of her child. See Tex. Fam. Code § 161.001(b)(2). We hold that there is sufficient evidence to support the trial court's decree and therefore affirm.

         Background

         The child who is the subject of this suit, K.W.G. (pseudonymously referred to as "Kevin"), was born in August 2014. The Department of Family and Protective Services intervened in December 2015 when it received reports that Kevin's mother ("Mother") was homeless and engaging in prostitution. Mother tested positive for methamphetamines and amphetamines, and Kevin was removed from her care.

         Mother was offered a family service plan by the Department that specified an initial permanency goal of family reunification. The plan listed several requirements that Mother would have to meet for reunification, including that Mother attend parenting classes, submit to drug tests, participate in substance-abuse counseling sessions, and refrain from any illegal criminal activity. Mother signed the family service plan, acknowledging that her parental rights might be terminated if she was unwilling or unable to comply with the plan, which was designed to provide her child with a safe environment. The trial court ordered that she comply with the terms of the family service plan and notified her that failure to fully comply may result in termination of her parental rights. See id. § 161.001(b)(1)(O). The plan period began in January 2016.

         Mother was arrested four months later for possession of narcotics. During the four months before her arrest, Mother did not appear at any of the five drug tests scheduled under her family service plan. Nor did she complete or even begin any of the other plan requirements. She was convicted and spent the next seven months in jail. While in jail, she completed a parenting class, but she failed to take steps toward any of the other plan requirements. Mother was released from jail about one month before the termination hearing.

         At the hearing, Mother admitted that she had been "on drugs, " "very depressed, " and "in a very abusive relationship" before her arrest. She stated that she has a substance abuse problem that she would like help addressing. Mother testified that she has begun to address the items detailed in her family service plan since her release from jail.

         The Department caseworker, Regina Taylor-Evans, testified that Mother never took any steps toward complying with her family service plan during the four months before her arrest. Mother agreed that she had not performed any services or attended any court hearings during those four months but explained that she had been regularly consuming drugs at that time and that she did complete a parenting class-one of the plan requirements-while in jail.

         The Department also presented evidence of Mother's lengthy criminal record, which included three felony drug convictions, a felony theft conviction, two convictions for driving while intoxicated, and an assault conviction, among others. There also was evidence of an arrest for aggravated assault in March 2016, while her family plan was in place, but that charge had not been finally resolved by the trial date.[1] Mother was not asked nor did she testify about her criminal history.

         Taylor-Evans also testified about Kevin's current living arrangements. At the time of trial, he was two years old. He had been living with foster parents for the past seven months. According to Taylor-Evans, the current foster parents were adequately providing for Kevin's physical and emotional needs and wanted to adopt him and provide him a permanent, stable home.

         Taylor-Evans testified that termination of Mother's parental rights was in Kevin's best interest because a permanent placement was available, the foster parents were willing and able to provide Kevin with a safe and stable environment, Mother had a long history of drug use and incarcerations, there was evidence that Mother engaged in violent behavior during the pendency of the case that could subject her to additional incarceration, and Mother failed to comply with the terms of her family services plan.

         The trial court terminated Mother's parental rights after finding that the Department proved by clear and convincing evidence that Mother had engaged in conduct that endangered Kevin, constructively abandoned Kevin, and failed to comply with her court-ordered plan, and that termination was in Kevin's best interest. See Tex. ...


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