Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
IN THE INTEREST OF R.P. JR., G.P., M.P., and R.M.A.P., Minor Children
the 131st Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2015PA01825 Honorable Richard Garcia, Judge
Sitting: Marialyn Barnard, Justice Patricia O. Alvarez,
Justice Irene Rios, Justice
Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice
an accelerated appeal of the trial court's order
terminating Appellant Mom's and Appellant Dad's
parental rights to their children, R.P. Jr., G.P., M.P, and
R.M.A.P. Neither Mom nor Dad contest
that the evidence was sufficient to support the trial
court's terminations based on statutory grounds.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(D),
(E), (O) (West Supp. 2016). On appeal, Mom and Dad
individually assert the evidence is neither legally nor
factually sufficient for the trial court to have found by
clear and convincing evidence that terminating each of their
parental rights was in the children's best interests.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(2).
Because we conclude the evidence is legally and factually
sufficient to support the trial court's findings in both
cases, we affirm the trial court's order terminating
Mom's and Dad's parental rights to R.P. Jr., G.P.,
M.P., and R.M.A.P.
and Procedural Background
August 12, 2015, the Texas Department of Family and
Protective Services received a referral following Mom's
suicide attempt. A follow-up investigation revealed domestic
violence between Mom and Dad, an unstable living environment
for the children, a failure to supervise the children, and a
lack of viable relative options for placement.
August 28, 2015, the Department filed its Original Petition
for Protection of Children, for Conservatorship, and for
Termination in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.
Following an emergency order, the children were placed in the
temporary managing conservatorship of the Department; Mom and
Dad were granted temporary possessory conservatorship.
Department created individual family service plans for Mom
and Dad; the plans set forth the services and classes
required before the children could return home to either Mom
or Dad. After several status and permanency hearings, on
November 14, 2016, the trial court called the matter for
trial. Following a hearing, the trial court terminated
Mom's and Dad's parental rights pursuant to Texas
Family Code Sections 161.001(b)(1) (D), (E), (O).
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(D),
(E), (O). The trial court further
found termination of both Mom's and Dad's parental
rights was in the children's best interests. See
id. § 161.001(b)(2). This appeal ensued.
of the Evidence
Standards of Review
termination of parental rights involves fundamental
constitutional rights and divests the parent and child of all
legal rights, privileges, duties, and powers normally
existing between them, except for the child's right to
inherit from the parent." In re L.J.N., 329
S.W.3d 667, 671 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2010, no pet.)
(citing Holick v. Smith, 685 S.W.2d 18, 20 (Tex.
1985)). As a result, appellate courts must strictly
scrutinize involuntary termination proceedings in favor of
the parent. Id. (citing In re D.S.P., 210
S.W.3d 776, 778 (Tex. App.- Corpus Christi 2006, no pet.)).
order terminating parental rights must be supported by clear
and convincing evidence that (1) the parent has committed one
of the grounds for involuntary termination as listed in
section 161.001(b)(1) of the Family Code, and (2) terminating
the parent's rights is in the best interest of the child.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001; In re
J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 261 (Tex. 2003). "'Clear
and convincing evidence' means the measure or degree of
proof that will produce in the mind of the trier of fact a
firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the allegations
sought to be established." Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
101.007; J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 264.
is a strong presumption that the best interest of the child
is served by keeping the child with its natural parent, and
the burden is on [the Department] to rebut that
presumption." In re D.R.A., 374 S.W.3d 528, 533
(Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2012, no pet.). "The
same evidence of acts or omissions used to establish grounds
for termination under section 161.001[(b)](1) may be
probative in determining the best interest[s] of the
clear and convincing evidence standard applies, a legal
sufficiency review requires a court to "look at all the
evidence in the light most favorable to the finding to
determine whether a reasonable trier of fact could have
formed a firm belief or conviction that its finding was
true." In re J.L., 163 S.W.3d 79, 85 (Tex.
2005) (quoting J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 266). If the
court "determines that [a] reasonable factfinder could
form a firm belief or conviction that the matter that must be
proven is true, then that court must conclude that the
evidence is legally [sufficient]." See id.
(quoting J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 266). "[A]
reviewing court must assume that the factfinder resolved
disputed facts in favor of its finding if a reasonable
factfinder could do so." J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at
266. "A corollary to this requirement is that a court
should disregard all evidence that a reasonable factfinder
could have disbelieved or found to have been
clear and convincing standard, evidence is factually
sufficient if "a factfinder could reasonably form a firm
belief or conviction about the truth of the State's
allegations." In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 25
(Tex. 2002); accord In re K.R.M., 147 S.W.3d 628,
630 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2004, no pet.). We must consider
"whether disputed evidence is such that a reasonable
factfinder could not have resolved that disputed evidence in
favor of its finding." J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at
266; accord C.H., 89 S.W.3d at 25. "If, in
light of the entire record, [unless] the disputed evidence
that a reasonable factfinder could not have credited in favor
of the finding is so significant that a factfinder could not
reasonably have formed a firm belief or conviction, . . . the
evidence is factually [sufficient]." J.F.C., 96
S.W.3d at 266.
Testimony Before the Trial Court
Wright, the Department's caseworker, testified the
Department removed the children following a suicide attempt
by Mom in August of 2015; she overdosed on R.P. Jr's
psychotropic medication. After Mom's admission to the
hospital, Mom requested the Department care for her children;
she "needed time to get herself together." At the
time of the hearing, R.P. Jr. was nine-years-old, G.P. was
seven-years-old, M.P. was four-years-old, and R.M.A.P. was
testified that Mom's service plan included domestic
violence classes, parenting classes, and individual and
family therapy. Mom initiated counseling, but was discharged
following excessive absences. The service plan also required
Mom to maintain stable housing and employment and to submit
for random drug testing. At the time of the hearing, Mom did
not have stable employment or housing.
averred that, although Mom completed both parenting and
domestic abuse classes, she failed to demonstrate anything
she learned from the class. Concerns remained regarding
ongoing domestic violence. The main recommendation contained
in Mom's psychological assessment was for her not to
engage in a relationship with Dad. Wright discussed the
recommendation with Mom on several occasions to no avail.
Specifically, Wright relayed that in August of 2016, Mom
"punched out [Dad]'s windows in his truck. [Dad],
apparently, went to where [Mom] was staying and . . . busted
out a mirror in the home." In addition to the physical
abuse, Wright documented emotional abuse including text
messages back and forth between the parents, threatening each
other and each other's families. The last text messages
documented by Wright, in October of 2016, occurred shortly
before the termination hearing.
testified that Dad was likewise provided a safety plan upon
the children entering the Department's custody. He failed
to complete many of the services, including individual
counseling and domestic violence classes. In fact, Wright
relayed that Dad had to restart the family violence class
three times because of missed classes. Dad did complete a
parenting class and appeared to have a lease on an apartment.
outlined the Department's concerns regarding medical
neglect of the children. Despite several attempts to explain
how excessive sugars can cause harm to the children's
teeth, both parents continued to bring snacks and
inappropriate foods to the visits. For example, G.P.'s
teeth were completely rotted and required surgery to place
caps on all of his teeth. Yet, neither Mom's nor
Dad's behavior changed throughout the pendency of the
parents regularly attended visitations and were bonded with
their children. Originally, the visitations were joint, with
both parents. However, after Mom's outcry that Dad hit
her when he was drunk, the Department separated the visits.
Wright testified the parents' ongoing behavior continued
to endanger both the physical and emotional well-being of the
children. Wright opined she did not think either Mom or Dad
could safely care for the children. The parents failed to
project appropriate behaviors, continued to engage in
domestic violence, remained untruthful with the caseworkers,
and continued in a toxic, on-again, off-again relationship.
testified the children were doing very well in placement.
R.P. Jr. struggles with reading, spelling, and math and is
currently taking medication for Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder. As the case has progressed, R.P. Jr.
has relayed specific details about his mother's suicide
attempt, the fighting between his parents immediately
preceding the incident, and his attempt to stop the suicide.
He is currently in therapy and is beginning to address these
issues. Although only nine-years-old, R.P. Jr. appears to
step into the parent role for his siblings. During visits,
R.P. Jr. takes the children to the bathroom and generally
cares for the children's needs. G.P. is also in
therapy-predominantly addressing the domestic violence
witnessed in the home. Although M.P. and R.M.A.P. both
require speech therapy, neither child exhibits special needs.
children were thriving in their foster home and the
Department was hopeful all four children would be adopted
together. Wright explained that she had been unable to locate
a relative for placement. Finally, Wright testified that
ongoing cases with the Department, or failure to complete the
necessary paperwork, excluded placement with the maternal
grandmother, the maternal brother, the paternal sister, or
the paternal grandmother.
Allen, the Department's investigator, testified that he
received the initial report on August 12, 2015. After several
visits, on August 24, 2015, Allen found the family living at
a hotel. Although the original referral only included
Mom's suicide attempt, other concerns materialized. Allen
expressed concerns regarding domestic violence, the lack of a
stable living environment, neglectful supervision, and drug
use by Dad. Both of the older children discussed their
mother's suicide attempt with Allen, and provided further
details regarding the domestic abuse. Allen also testified
regarding the children being outside late at night and
roaming in-and-out of traffic.
emergency meeting was scheduled for the following day. When
the maternal grandmother refused to take a drug screen and
was uncooperative with the Department, she was excluded from
placement. Allen testified that Mom was cooperative,
acknowledging that she needed help, and requesting the