Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
IN THE INTEREST OF E.N.Q., C.A.Q., A.C.Q., and K.C.Q., Children
the 45th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2016PA00761 Honorable Charles E. Montemayor, Judge
Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Karen Angelini,
Justice Marialyn Barnard, Justice
Bryan Marion, Chief Justice
an accelerated appeal from the trial court's order
terminating appellant's parental rights to his four
children. 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 children's best interest. See Tex.
Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(2) (West Supp. 2016). We
is the father of two of the children who are the subject of
this appeal, and the alleged father of the other two children
who also are the subject of this appeal. The Department of
Family and Protective Services ("the Department")
filed its original petition for conservatorship of the four
children and for termination of their
parents' parental rights on April 12, 2016. The
termination hearing commenced on February 2, 2017.
State first called the Department caseworker, Ashley Hurtado,
who testified she had been the caseworker since April 20,
2016. Hurtado stated she believed termination of
appellant's parental rights was in the children's
best interest because appellant is currently incarcerated and
had been incarcerated the entire time she was the caseworker.
Hurtado said appellant provided certificates of completion
for a domestic violence class, a marriage and parenting
class, individual therapy, and "spiritual Bible-type
classes." She conceded appellant had engaged in the
services that were available to him during his incarceration.
Nevertheless, Hurtado stated "these children need
permanency, so [appellant is] not an option." Because of
appellant's incarceration, he could not visit his
children, and does not have stable housing or employment.
Hurtado also stated that because appellant was incarcerated,
he was unable to provide the children with food.
then testified about each of the children. Hurtado said all
the children came into the Department's care because the
mother left them alone, there was no food in the house, the
children ate out of the trash, the mother could not maintain
a sober lifestyle, and the children witnessed domestic
violence. Even after being taken into care, C.A.Q. and K.C.Q.
initially hoarded their food. The mother's boyfriend may
have sexually molested A.C.Q.
children originally were placed with fictive kin, the
paternal grandfather's girlfriend. E.N.Q. was later moved
to a foster-to-adopt placement in January 2017. E.N.Q. is not
taking any medication, she is doing well, adjusted quickly to
her placement, has "her days, " feels safe in her
foster home, and has bonded with her foster parent's
daughter who is about eighteen months older than E.N.Q.
C.A.Q. also was moved to another foster-to-adopt placement in
December 2016. Hurtado said she has worked with C.A.Q. since
April 2016 and "this is the best [she has] ever seen
him." C.A.Q. takes a medication for P.T.S.D. and
anxiety, but he is now calmer and less anxious, no longer has
behavioral issues at school, has integrated well into his
foster family, and calls his foster parents mom and dad.
Prior to his placement, C.A.Q. was aggressive and acted out
to the extent the Department was concerned for the safety of
other two children, A.C.Q. and K.C.Q., are still with the
fictive kin who is in the process of becoming licensed for
the purpose of adopting the two children. A.C.Q. and K.C.Q.
are not taking any medication, they "go back and forth
with their behaviors" and have good days and bad days,
but they appear calmer now that they are the only two
children in the household. However, recently A.C.Q. told a
teacher, "No. I don't want to do this, " and
she has been "emotional" and cries "a lot
about things." K.C.Q., who is in daycare, gets into
trouble and has some behavioral issues.
the children are in different placements, the caregivers are
willing to maintain contact among the siblings. Despite
placing the children in other homes, Hurtado conceded the
children's paternal grandmother wanted to keep all the
children with her, and no final home study had been done on
the grandmother to establish whether that was a possibility.
However, Hurtado said a preliminary home study indicated
other children had been removed from the paternal
grandfather's care because of problems with the paternal
grandfather (she did not elaborate), and the grandmother had
a criminal history (resisting arrest, drug possession, and
appellant, he was already incarcerated when the Department
removed the children from their mother. Hurtado stated,
"there's been statements that when he was out [of
incarceration], things were - were better." However,
according to Hurtado, appellant made choices that did not put
his children first. She did not explain what she meant by
these "choices." Because of his incarceration,
appellant has not been able to provide the children with
stability or a different life. Hurtado and appellant have
exchanged letters and, in his last letter, appellant told her
he would be up for parole in six to eight months. According
to Hurtado, E.N.Q. said she loves her father, "things
were better when he was out, " and she worries about
what terminating her father's parental rights will mean.
Hurtado stated the children thought their mother was
"bad, " but they had fond memories of their father.
next witness, the Department's removing investigator,
Anita Chavarria, testified the children were initially
referred to the Department in November 2015 because the
children were left with multiple caregivers and the mother
used drugs. Chavarria said the mother's home was
"gutted, " some areas had no walls and wiring was
exposed, there was no water, food, or electricity, and C.A.Q.
and K.C.Q. were soiled with urine and feces. At the time, the
other two children, E.N.Q. and A.C.Q., were with their
paternal great-grandmother. When Chavarria spoke with E.N.Q.
and A.C.Q., they told her they "were being hit with a
paddle and with whips from the tree outside, " the
family knew about the mother's drug use but allowed them
to visit with their mother, and a live-in cousin smoked
marijuana. Chavarria said she looked into the children's
paternal family as possible placements, but none were
State also admitted into evidence three judgments. The first
judgment indicated appellant pled nolo contendere to a
robbery that occurred on or about January 7, 2009-a date less
than three months before his eldest child, E.N.Q., was born.
During the course of the robbery, appellant hit the
complainant with his hand. He was sentenced on July 10, 2009,
and placed on community supervision for six years. The second
judgment indicated appellant pled nolo contendere to
possession of a controlled substance, an offense that
occurred on or about September 17, 2014-a date by which time
all four children were born. He was sentenced on March 17,
2015 to five years' confinement. The third judgment
indicates that, ...