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In re I. J.-S. A.

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

June 15, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF I. J.-S. A., A CHILD

         On Appeal from the 313th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2015-04683J

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Brown and Lloyd.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Sherry Radack Chief Justice

         Mother challenges the trial court's determination that termination of her parental rights to her minor daughter, I.J.-S.A, was in the child's best interest. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         During her pregnancy, Mother was unemployed and lived with her mother, Shazan. She gave birth to I.J.-S.A. on June 15, 2015. The hospital made a referral to the Department of Family and Protective Services because both I.J.-S.A. and Mother tested positive for PCP in their system immediately after birth. Mother admitted to taking narcotics early in her pregnancy, but claimed that she had not been using PCP; she was only around other people using it.

         The Department offered Mother family-based services and agreed to place I.J.-S.A. with Mother and Shazan, so long as they agreed that Mother was not to be left alone with I.J-S.A. The Department later asked Mother to move out of the house because she continued to take PCP. She was allowed to visit during the day, so long as her visits were supervised by Shazan.

         When the Department discovered that Shazan was still allowing Mother to stay at the house and be unsupervised with I.J.-S.A., the Department sought to identify another potential relative placement. The only name the family provided was for Mother's brother, who was on probation for drug charges and an inappropriate caregiver candidate. I.J.-S.A. was moved into foster care. Mother committed a theft on August 18, 2015-just a few days after I.J.-S.A. was removed, for which she pleaded guilty and went to jail.

         Mother's service plan required her to, among other things, participate in parenting classes, substance-abuse treatment, and submit to drug tests. It is undisputed that she did not comply with many of the service-plan requirements, and she continued to engage in risky behavior. For example, she presented to the MHMR Eligibility Center for a psychiatric assessment, but was discharged for inappropriate behavior, including-among other things-taking Xanax and providing Xanax to other patients. In October of 2015, Mother committed another theft and was again sentenced to jail time.

         Mother identified Father for the Department. When contacted, he expressed doubt about whether I.J.-S.A. was his, and the court ordered DNA testing. On November 10, 2015, that DNA testing confirmed parentage, and the trial court signed an order establishing Father's paternity on January 14, 2016. Father maintained that he could not take care of I.J.-S.A. because he was busy with school and work.

         Mother continued to fail drug screens. She was indicted again on a new theft charge in July 2016. At the time of the termination trial, she was in jail.

         She testified at trial that she hoped to get clean after she was released from jail and regain possession of I.J.-S.A. She stated she bought I.J.-S.A. clothes, a pacifier, and things that I.J.-S.A. might need when she was able to visit I.J.-S.A. Mother testified to her belief that, when she got out of jail, she could provide a safe and stable environment for the I.J-S.A. She stated she would also try to get a job and, in the meantime, she hoped Shazan would be considered as a possible placement.

         Mother acknowledged the foster parents had been taking care of her daughter for a long time and were doing a very good job.

         I.J.-S.A.'s Department caseworker stated that I.J.-S.A. was doing very well in her foster placement. The placement family meets all of the child's physical and emotional needs and were willing to adopt the child. The caseworker also explained that the home study on Shazan's house was denied.

         I.J.-S.A.'s foster mother testified that I.J.-S.A. had been in their home for over 16 months, and she was happy and doing very well in their home. I.J.-S.A. knows her foster parents as "mamma" and "daddy." The foster mother testified that they love I.J.-S.A. very much and intend to adopt her.

         STANDARD ...


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