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In re C.K.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

June 28, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF C.K., N.K., B.K., R.K., N.K., Children

         From the 131st Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2015-PA-01077 Honorable Charles E. Montemayor, Judge Presiding[1]

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice Irene Rios, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice

         The mother of C.K., N.K., B.K., R.K., and N.K. appeals the trial court's order terminating her parental rights.[2] Mother contends the evidence is insufficient to support the trial court's finding that she failed to comply with the provisions of her family service plan and that termination is in the children's best interest. We affirm the trial court's order.

         Background

         The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services filed its petition in the underlying cause to terminate Mother's parental rights on May 26, 2015. A bench trial was held on November 14, 2016.

         Mother did not appear at trial. Her attorney stated he had made efforts "over the last week to track her down, " but "[h]er whereabouts are unknown at this time." Because Mother was not present, her attorney announced not ready. The Department's attorney stated Mother had been involved in the case, had shown up to hearings, and had engaged in services. Because Mother was "well aware" of the case, the Department urged the trial court to deny the not ready announcement. The trial court overruled the not ready announcement.

         The Department's legal worker testified she had been the legal worker on the case since its inception. The children were removed from their parent's care on May 26, 2015 after R.K., who was four, was hit by a car when she was left unsupervised in a parking lot. The accident left R.K. paralyzed. At that time, Mother and father were living in different units at an apartment complex, and the children would wander back and forth between the units. On the day R.K. was hit, she was visiting the father. The legal worker testified the case changed from family to legal when N.K., who was one at the time, was left outside unsupervised by Mother. At the time of trial, C.K. was seventeen, N.K. was twelve, B.K. was eight, R.K. was six, and N.K. was three.

         The legal worker testified a service plan was prepared for Mother. Because Mother spoke Nepali, the Department had an interpreter present when the Department explained the service plan to her, and Mother was able to ask questions. The legal worker testified Mother demonstrated she understood the services she was required to complete because she asked a lot of questions, including questions about the location of the services, the length of time the services would take, and whether her children would be present. Mother also demonstrated she understood the services by engaging in services which the Department set up to "go to her." An interpreter was present during the services in which Mother engaged. Although the service plan itself was written in English, the legal worker testified Mother was given the phone number and name of Catholic Charities in Nepali to arrange the services.

         The legal worker testified Mother did not complete the service plan. Although Mother would start services, she was unsuccessfully discharged from the services she started for two reasons. First, Mother was engaged in a relationship with someone who assaulted her. Second, Mother was evicted from two different residences. The legal worker testified Mother still did not have a stable home. The legal worker last spoke with Mother in September of 2016, and Mother told her she was living with a friend while working and saving money to get her own place.

         The legal worker testified she communicated with Mother in court through a translator. During the year the case was pending, the legal worker and Mother learned to communicate with each other during their visits, but an interpreter was present when the legal worker believed one to be necessary. The legal worker testified Mother knew some English.

         With regard to visitation, Mother was allowed two visits each month for one hour. At the beginning of the case, Mother's visits were regular and consistent when the visits were in her home, but Mother had not had a visit since March of 2016. The legal worker explained that when the visits were moved to the Department because Mother did not have a residence, Mother "was a no-show to a few." The visits were then moved to a restaurant, and Mother "just didn't show up for them." When Mother did not show up for the visits, the children were fearful of what was happening to her. Although the children sometimes expressed a desire to see their mother, the legal worker testified the children were very confused.

         The legal worker testified that the Department had a concern with Mother's alcohol abuse. Mother admitted she drank alcohol but denied being an alcoholic.

         The legal worker stated she did not believe Mother could care for the children. She testified Mother is unstable and does not have a place to live. Although Mother is working, she is not financially stable, and she continued to be in a relationship with a man who abused her over and over. Mother refused efforts to place her at the battered women's shelter. ...


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