Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
the County Court at Law, Kendall County, Texas Trial Court
No. 15-485 CCL Honorable Cathy Morris, Judge Presiding
Sitting: Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa,
Justice Irene Rios, Justice
Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice
K. appeals the trial court's order terminating her
parental rights to her son J.K.L. Kasee challenges the
sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's
finding that termination of her parental rights was in
J.K.L.'s best interest. We affirm the trial court's
was born on September 30, 2015, and the Department was
appointed temporary managing conservator on October 16, 2015.
An order terminating the father's parental rights was
signed on September 28, 2016. A trial on whether Kasee's
parental rights should be terminated was held on November
29-30, 2016. The following summarizes the testimony of the
Dodd, a conservatorship worker employed by the Texas
Department of Family and Protective Services, testified she
was assigned to work with Kasee in November of 2013. At that
time, another one of Kasee's children, R.C., who was two
months old, was removed from Kasee's care, and a family
service plan was developed for Kasee which included
supervised visitation and drug testing. Kasee was never able
to visit R.C. after the removal because Kasee never had two
consecutive, negative drug tests. Kasee also was not
otherwise compliant with the plan because she would engage in
services for a month and then disappear for several months.
While the case was pending, Kasee gave birth to another
child, M.C., on March 17, 2014. Kasee was using drugs while
pregnant with M.C., and the Department immediately removed
M.C. from Kasee's care. Ultimately, Kasee's parental
rights to both R.C. and M.C. were terminated on January 26,
testified Kasee was not truthful during the period she worked
with her. Dodd discovered Kasee had two other children who
also were removed from her care because of her drug use. Dodd
testified Kasee never demonstrated any willingness to protect
her children from harm or to accept the responsibility of
being a parent. Kasee never put her children's needs
ahead of her own or demonstrated any change in her pattern of
behavior. Dodd admitted she had not been in contact with
Kasee since October of 2014.
Brent Reyburn, a neonatologist, examined J.K.L. on October
4-5, 2015. Because J.K.L. did not exhibit withdrawal symptoms
at birth, he was not initially screened for narcotics. On
October 3, 2015, J.K.L. was admitted to the hospital's
intensive care unit due to concerns about respiratory
distress and oxygen desaturation. J.K.L. was diagnosed with
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome which is manifested by
withdrawal symptoms due to maternal narcotic usage. The
symptoms include tremors, extreme irritability, high-pitched
crying, increased muscle tone, and hyperactivity.
the night of October 4, 2015, J.K.L.'s Neonatal
Abstinence Scores averaged 8.3, with high scores of 12 and 14
which Dr. Reyburn described as "incredibly high."
Dr. Reyburn explained any score over 8 requires treatment,
and J.K.L. met all criteria for placing him on morphine due
to his symptoms. After the morphine was administered,
J.K.L.'s symptoms drastically improved. J.K.L. was slowly
weaned off the morphine over a two-week period.
Reyburn testified J.K.L. did not suffer from any other
symptoms that would mimic something similar to a withdrawal.
He also explained an infant generally shows evidence of
withdrawal within 48 to 72 hours, but a delay in an
infant's withdrawal is not uncommon. When the mother last
used a narcotic and the type of narcotic she used can affect
the timing of the infant's withdrawal. Dr. Reyburn
further testified that an infant may suffer from withdrawal
even if the mother tested negative for all drugs.
Cholico, an investigative supervisor employed by the
Department, testified the Department received a referral for
J.K.L. on October 1, 2015. A nurse at the hospital where
J.K.L. was born called in the referral based on Kasee's
history with the Department and her extensive drug history.
In the past, the Department had received five referrals with
regard to Kasee, and three of the referrals were validated.
All of the referrals involved drug use. The main concern with
J.K.L. was his withdrawal symptoms.
receiving the referral for J.K.L., a safety plan was
developed for Kasee. Because Kasee was uncooperative and
confrontational, the plan required her visits with J.K.L. in
the hospital to be supervised. After Kasee was discharged
from the hospital, she visited J.K.L. in the hospital between
midnight and 3:00 a.m. A nurse reported Kasee appeared to be
under the influence of something. Although Kasee did not test
positive for drugs in the hospital, Cholico testified the
Department removed J.K.L. because of his withdrawal symptoms
which indicated Kasee had used drugs during her pregnancy.
Cholico also testified Kasee's probation officer informed
him she tested positive in drug tests administered as a
condition of probation in 2013.
Nix, another conservatorship worker employed by the
Department, testified Kasee's case was transferred to her
in August of 2016. Upon receiving the case, Nix reviewed the
entire file. A copy of Kasee's family service plan was
admitted into evidence. The plan required Kasee to complete
individual therapy, a parenting class, and drug and alcohol
assessment. Kasee was also required to submit to random drug
testing, maintain a safe alcohol-and-drug-free home, maintain
contact with her caseworker, obtain and maintain employment,
and complete a psychological evaluation. When Nix was
assigned the case, Kasee had completed a parenting class,
participated in substance abuse assessment, started therapy,
and completed a psychological evaluation. The psychological
evaluation recommended ongoing drug treatment based on
concerns that Kasee minimized her drug history. Kasee had not
been discharged from therapy, and her therapist had not
recommended family reunification. The plan required Kasee to
attend therapy twice a month, but she had attended only about
half of the required sessions. Kasee's therapist informed
Nix that Kasee routinely called to cancel her appointments.
The therapist continued to have concerns that Kasee was not
addressing her alcohol issues. With the exception of one drug
test in May of 2016 which was dilute, and a positive alcohol
test in September of 2016, all of Kasee's drug tests were
negative. Kasee had not provided evidence of employment or
documentation that she was attending drug treatment.
testified she saw no evidence of Kasee's willingness or
ability to protect J.K.L. from harm. Nix stated Kasee had not
demonstrated an acceptance of the responsibility of being a
parent. In therapy, Kasee continued to minimize and deny the
problems that required J.K.L.'s removal. Nix testified
Kasee had not met the plan's tasks or goals. Although the
Department had provided Kasee with all the services,
referrals, and resources necessary for her to be reunified
with J.K.L., Kasee had not fully utilized them. The
Department's permanency plan for J.K.L. was adoption by
his current foster family in whose care J.K.L. was safe and
meeting all of his developmental milestones. J.K.L. was
placed with that foster ...