Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, El Paso
from 109th District Court of Winkler County, Texas (TC #
McClure, C.J., Rodriguez, and Palafox, JJ.
CRAWFORD McCLURE, Chief Justice.
appeal is from a judgment terminating the parental rights of
H.L. to her daughter. We affirm.
was three years of age at the time of the trial before the
associate judge in December 2016. In August 2015, H.L. and
A.L. were living in the home of H.L.'s parents.
H.L.'s mother had suffered a stroke and required in-home
health care to assist her with all activities of daily
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (the
Department) first became involved with H.L. and A.L. in
August 22, 2015 after receiving an intake report that the
home was unclean and A.L. often did not wear any clothing.
The Department required H.L. to clean the home and referred
her to the Stay Together program so that she could receive
additional in-home parenting. The Department closed the
investigation in October 2015, but it received another intake
on December 3, 2015 regarding the unsanitary conditions of
the home. When the investigator, Carla Davis, returned to the
home, she found that its condition had worsened.
dogs were in the home and Davis found dog feces in the living
room, the child's bedroom, and another room. The
furniture in the living room was covered in dog hair and
dirty dishes were on the floor. At the time of Davis's
visit, H.L.'s mother was on a recliner in the living room
because she had broken her ankle. Davis testified that
several "medical cords" were strung across the
floor and A.L. had access to them.
denied Davis access to the kitchen stating that the dogs in
the kitchen would bite her. Davis could look into the
kitchen, however, and she saw that the dogs were confined in
cages. The dogs had been in the cages so long that they had
urinated and defecated on the kitchen floor. There was a
large pile of unwashed dishes in the sink and on the kitchen
counter, and insects were crawling on the dishes. Davis also
observed that a bowl of cereal had spilled onto the kitchen
floor and had dried there. The kitchen table was covered with
empty food containers, utensils, and bottles of medication.
A.L.'s bedroom, Davis saw several piles of feces on the
floor. The mattress did not have any sheets on it and there
were brown smears on the mattress that appeared to be feces.
Several fly strips were hanging from the ceiling and covered
in flies. Davis also observed that A.L., who had just turned
two and was not potty-trained, was wearing only a red
t-shirt. H.L. refused Davis's request to take photographs
of the house. The Department found reason to believe that
H.L. had neglected A.L. and it removed her from the home on
December 3, 2015.
Welch Miller is a conservatorship caseworker assigned to the
case. Since cleanliness of the home was an issue, Miller or
another caseworker went to the home monthly to examine its
condition. H.L. initially had seven dogs and Miller continued
to find both dog urine and feces and on the floor of the home
during her visits. The number of dogs was eventually reduced
to three, but Miller continued to find both what appeared to
be urine on the floors of the home. The bathrooms in the home
were dirty and Miller frequently found unflushed waste in the
toilet bowls. Miller made a home visit on October 26, 2016,
approximately five weeks before the termination hearing, and
she found H.L.'s bedroom in a state of disarray. The
floor was covered with clothing, dishes, leftover food, and
trash. H.L. was also using a circulating fan which did not
have a cover on it.
the removal of A.L. from the home, H.L. or her father took
steps to have repairs done to the home. For example, new
laminate flooring was installed in some of the rooms and the
hardwood floors were refinished in other areas. A.L.'s
room was painted. Miller gave H.L. instructions on how to
clean the house and provided demonstrations for her, but H.L.
did not retain the knowledge from month to month or apply it
consistently. H.L. was also resistant to cleaning the home
and made excuses for not cleaning it, telling Miller that her
father would not permit her to clean the house the way Miller
had shown her. In addition to the unsanitary condition of the
home, Miller was also concerned that dangerous objects, such
as knives and saws, were often left within reach of a small
child. Miller saw an improvement, however, with the roach
infestation after a pest control company began treating the
home. Despite the improvement in some areas of the home, it
was Miller's opinion that the condition of the home
endangered A.L.'s physical and emotional well-being.
Reinhard is a conservatorship case worker and she has been in
the home on seven different occasions. On November 8, 2016,
approximately three weeks before trial, Reinhard made an
unannounced visit to the home to check on its condition. H.L.
had just gotten out of the shower and she invited Reinhard to
talk in her bedroom while her mother's caregiver fixed
her hair. Reinhard described H.L.'s bedroom as being in a
state of "vast disarray." Clothes, partially eaten
food, empty food containers, cigarette butts, and soda cans
were on the floor. A trash bag was on the floor near an
overflowing trash can. A used tampon was on the floor near
the opening of the trash bag. Reinhard also observed a bong
and a package of partially-used suppositories in the room. A
small refrigerator was in the bedroom, and it had knives and
pill bottles on top of it. H.L. explained that her aunt and
three cousins had visited her over the weekend and had
"trashed" the room, but she had been cleaning it
since the previous day. Despite the bedroom's condition,
H.L. described herself as a "clean freak" during
this conversation with Reinhard. In her previous visits,
Reinhard had explained to H.L. the dangerous conditions
around the home for a child A.L.'s age. When Reinhard
asked H.L. if she could identify any safety concerns in the
bedroom, H.L. stated she could not see anything because she
did not have on her glasses, but she indicated that the pile
of extension cords, empty soda cans, and cases of beer could
pose a danger to a child. The caregiver pointed out the
bottles of prescription medication and the knives. Reinhard
testified that whenever she spoke to H.L. about the condition
of the home, she either denied the condition or made excuses
as in this instance.
room was "fairly clean" and in the best condition
Reinhard had seen it. The bed had a new mattress on it, but
no sheets. Reinhard also went into the kitchen and
characterized it as "vastly improved." The kitchen
table was covered with dishes and utensils, but there were no
dirty dishes in the sink or on the counter. Even though
Reinhard had seen some improvement in the condition of the