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In re N.N.M.

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

June 20, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF N.N.M. AND R.B.A. III, CHILDREN

         On Appeal from the 314th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2016-00274J

          Panel consists of Justices Higley, Bland, and Brown.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Jane Bland Justice.

         After a bench trial, the trial court terminated the parental rights of M.V., the biological mother of N.N.M and R.B.A. III. The mother appeals the termination decree. She concedes that sufficient evidence supports the predicate grounds found by the trial court to support termination of her parental rights, but contends that the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the trial court's finding that termination was in the children's best interest. We affirm.

         Background

         In April 2014, the Department received two referrals concerning the mother's treatment of the older child, who was then about nine months old. The first referral alleged that the mother was using drugs and in a physically abusive relationship. These behaviors placed the child in jeopardy. The referral cites one instance in which the mother's paramour threw a brick through the mother's car window while the older child was in the car.

         The second referral contained allegations that the mother neglected and physically abused the older child. The mother reportedly was using mind-altering substances and tested positive for marijuana. The child lost weight in the mother's care, was unclothed, had bruising on "a vital body area, " and had untreated diaper rash. The investigation resulted in findings against the mother that supported a reason to believe neglectful supervision and physical neglect.

         The Department initiated Family-Based Safety Services (FBSS) and placed the child with her godparent. The mother, who by then was pregnant with the younger child, performed the services required in FBSS, including participation in a drug rehabilitation program. She left the rehabilitation facility, however, before completing the program. She refused to submit to drug testing in November 2014. She also stopped attending counseling sessions three meetings short of completion, telling the Department that she had been put on bed-rest until her due date at the end of December. Her drug screen was negative when she gave birth to the younger child two weeks later.

         Based on the mother's progress toward completing her FBSS services and the negative drug screen, the Department allowed her to bring the younger child home from the hospital with her. In late January 2015, however, the mother left the younger child with his godmother, claiming that she intended to find work and stable housing. Shortly thereafter, the mother relapsed into drug abuse.

         The Department took custody of the children. Pursuant to the trial court's order, the children, who had been living apart from each other with their godmothers, were placed together in a foster home.

         The mother's caseworker was unable to locate the mother again until late April 2015. When the caseworker met with her then, the mother refused to provide a hair follicle sample for drug testing, but agreed to provide a urine sample, which tested negative for illegal drugs.

         The mother refused to submit to any further drug testing in April and May. In June and July 2015, the mother neither called the caseworker nor returned the caseworker's calls. The mother called the caseworker in early August, but again refused to submit to drug testing. She fell out of contact with the Department again in September.

         The mother had her next meeting with the caseworker in mid-October. At that meeting, the mother refused to submit to drug testing. The caseworker gave her another referral to a drug treatment facility, but the mother did not go for treatment.

         In November 2015, the mother agreed to submit to drug testing, but said she could not provide a hair sample because she had shaved off all of her hair. The urine ...


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