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In re L.S.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont

July 20, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF L.S., C.S., A.S.R., AND A.S.R.

          Submitted on May 30, 2017

         On Appeal from the 279th District Court Jefferson County, Texas Trial Cause No. F-226, 375

          Before McKeithen, C.J., Kreger and Johnson, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHARLES KREGER Justice

         The trial court terminated all parental rights to the minor children, L.S., C.S., A.S.R.1, and A.S.R.2.[1] Appellant T.S., the mother of all four children, appeals the termination.[2] In six points of error, T.S. ("Mother") contends that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support termination of her parental rights under any of the statutory predicate grounds listed in the termination order, or to support that termination was in the best interest of the children. We affirm.

         I. Background

         The Department of Family and Protective Services (the "Department") has been involved with Mother several times over the years preceding this suit as a result of Mother's drug use. Mother began using drugs when she was sixteen years old. She used the drug PCP, in September 2009, while she was pregnant with her oldest child, L.S. The Department later became involved with Mother as a result of her testing positive for PCP while caring for L.S. Mother also used drugs through her entire pregnancy with her next child, C.S., and the Department became involved again when that child's urine and meconium tested positive for PCP at birth in December 2014. The Department became involved with Mother again in November 2015, when she gave birth to twins, A.R.S.1 and A.R.S.2, both of whom tested positive for controlled substances in urine and meconium. As a result of this, the Department asked that all of the children be placed with family members, and all four were placed with their maternal grandmother, who was given a power of attorney over them. The Department then closed its investigation in December 2015.

         In February 2016, the Department received a new report that Mother had unsupervised possession of all four children. Upon investigation, the Department confirmed that, despite knowledge of Mother's extensive drug problem, the maternal grandmother had allowed the children back into Mother's care while the grandmother went out of town for a family emergency. The Department sought removal of the children after Mother appeared to be under the influence of drugs at a Family Team Meeting and tested positive for PCP, marijuana, and cocaine. The trial court entered an ex parte order for protection naming the Department as the temporary sole managing conservator of the children, and then continued the Department as the temporary sole managing conservator after a contested adversary hearing. The children were eventually placed with Mother's stepfather after spending the first few months of the case in foster care.

         The Department developed family service plans for each parent, which set forth the various tasks required of each parent in order to obtain the return of the children, and those service plans were approved and made orders of the trial court. In April 2016, Mother was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance, for which she eventually received deferred adjudication. Through the pendency of the case, Mother completed a parenting class and worked some of the services on her family service plan, but she did not complete the service plan. She also continued to use drugs, testing positive on at least nine occasions between the time of the investigation and the date of trial.

         On January 5, 2017, the Court began the bench trial in this cause. At that time, the parental rights of both fathers were terminated, and the court granted a continuance for Mother. Mother admitted to using drugs after the hearing and tested positive on February 7, 2017, and again on February 21, 2017. The court continued the proceeding against Mother on February 23, 2017. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court terminated Mother's parental rights after finding by clear and convincing evidence that Mother had:

knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the child(ren) to remain in conditions or surroundings which endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the child(ren);
engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the child(ren) with persons who engaged in conduct which endangers the physical or emotional well-being of the child(ren);
. . .
failed to comply with the provisions of a court order that specifically established the actions necessary for the mother to obtain the return of the child(ren) who has/have been in the permanent or temporary managing conservatorship of the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services for not less than nine months as a result of the child(ren)'s ...

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