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In re Z.D.C.P.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

June 7, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF Z.D.C.P., a Child

         From the 224th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016PA00897 Honorable Richard Garcia, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Marialyn Barnard, Justice Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice

         This is an accelerated appeal from the trial court's order terminating appellant's parental rights to his daughter, Z.D.C.P.[1] In a single issue, appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence in support of the trial court's finding that termination of his parental rights was in the child's best interest. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(2) (West Supp. 2016). We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         Appellant did not appear at the termination trial or at any of the prior hearings. The only witness to testify at trial was Alkeshia Daniels, the caseworker assigned during the pendency of the case. She said she had consistent contact with appellant, the last time the week before trial. According to Daniels, appellant was required to obtain stable housing, submit to a psychological evaluation, complete counseling, complete parenting classes, and visit with his child. At the time of trial, appellant was still engaged in his counseling, and he had completed his parenting classes. Daniels said appellant visits his daughter, but she did not know if appellant had "actually bonded" with his daughter. She explained the visits go well because appellant holds his daughter, she is a baby who likes to be held, and appellant is "treating her as a princess" and catering to her. She said Z.D.C.P. is a happy child who will go to anyone who asks to pick her up.

         However, although appellant visits his daughter, he did not demonstrate an ability to parent a young child. Daniels said that during the last visit, about a week before trial, appellant "pretty much ignore[d] [Z.D.C.P.] . . . [and she] has to struggle to fight for attention." Daniels testified appellant had not explained his reason for not completing the services required under his Family Service Plan. Appellant remained employed during the pendency of the case and he has his own housing. However, appellant works illegally under another person's social security number, and appellant told Daniels he was about to lose his job. Daniels was concerned appellant could be deported because of his immigration status. Although appellant has housing, the house has no electricity.

         Daniels did not believe appellant should be given more time to complete his services, and she did not believe appellant showed a willingness to effect a positive change in his life for the benefit of his daughter. Daniels explained appellant "is still committing criminal activities, he is not willing to show a bond, doesn't have electricity in his home, even though that's been requested for the past three - three months, to get electricity[, and according to appellant] he is about to lose his job." Daniels was not aware of anyone, such as family or friends, who could assist appellant with childcare. Despite being asked to do so, appellant had made no stable arrangements to care for Z.D.C.P. while he worked. Appellant completed his parenting classes, but he had not demonstrated basic parenting skills during his visits. For example, Daniels taught appellant how to make a bottle and change a diaper, but appellant would walk away from Z.D.C.P. while she sat on the changing table, thus, the baby could fall. Daniels said that despite talking to appellant and telling him how he could improve his visits, appellant still chose not to follow instructions or change his behavior.

         When asked what her concerns were that led to this case, Daniels responded appellant "was not protective." She explained the children's mother and appellant lived together and appellant knew the mother used drugs and there was no food in the house. Despite this knowledge, appellant continued to leave Z.D.C.P., an infant, with her mother. When asked if she discussed the issue with appellant, Daniels said he initially stated he was responsible for having food in the house and the children always had food. However, when shown photos taken during the removal of the children from the home showing no food, appellant "got quiet." When asked if she discussed the mother's drug use, Daniels responded

A. Yes. Initially, he said he would never give mom money because he knew she used drugs.
Q. So, he told you that?
A. And then, he said, I didn't know that she was using drugs. And then, when I told him about, You told me that, you know, you didn't give her money because of this, he said, Well, I have to work.

         The long-term plan for Z.D.C.P. is to be adopted by foster parents, with whom she has lived since September 2016.[2] Daniels stated the foster parents have demonstrated an ability to care for Z.D.C.P., and the child has "bloomed." Daniels said Z.D.C.P. knows her foster parents as "mom and dad, " and she knows appellant only as "someone who visits." The foster parents of the other children indicated a desire to allow the siblings to continue to see each other.

         BEST ...


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