Appeal from the 314th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2016-01310J
consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Jamison and
Busby. (Frost, C. J, concurring).
Hill Jamison Justice
appeals the trial court's final decree terminating her
parental rights and appointing the Department of Family and
Protective Services as sole managing conservator of her
child, Isaac. On appeal, Mother challenges the legal
and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support the (1)
predicate grounds under which her parental rights were
terminated, (2) finding that termination was in the
child's best interest, and (3) appointment of the
Department as managing conservator. We affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
October 2015, the Department received a referral alleging
neglectful supervision of Isaac by his 16-year-old Mother.
According to the referral, police were called to the maternal
grandmother's (Grandmother's) home because
Grandmother's then-boyfriend was threatening Mother and
Isaac with a bat and a gun. When law enforcement arrived, the
boyfriend was gone, but the officers observed Mother punch
Grandmother in the face multiple times. Isaac, who was three
months old at the time, was in a car seat in another room at
the time. Mother was arrested for assault family violence,
and Isaac was left in the care of Grandmother. Grandmother
reported that Mother had been "engaging in prostitution
and hanging out with drug users."
the referral, a Department investigator met with Grandmother
and Isaac at Grandmother's residence. Grandmother stated
Mother was out of control, angry, and a habitual runaway. She
further discussed the incident which led to Mother's
arrest and overnight stay in jail. After being released,
Mother left Grandmother's residence without permission
and had not returned. Isaac remained in Grandmother's
the Department investigator spoke with Mother on the
telephone. Mother acknowledged she was currently listed as a
runaway. Additionally, Mother admitted to using marijuana.
Approximately a week later, Mother called the Department
investigator to say she was ready to return home. Grandmother
was asked to pick up Mother. Grandmother stated she did not
want Mother back in her home, but was informed she had no
choice due to Mother's minority. The Department
investigator went to Grandmother's residence, where
Mother was upset and yelling. After approximately one hour,
Mother was convinced to participate in Family Based Safety
Services (FBSS) for anger, parenting, and counseling, and to
participate in other programs deemed necessary for her to
adjust to adult living.
did not complete all the recommended evaluations. In January
2016, FBSS received a call from Grandmother stating Mother
had left her residence with Isaac. Mother called FBSS the
same day and indicated she was staying with her aunt and
would forward her aunt's address; however, she did not.
Soon thereafter, FBSS received a phone call from someone
concerned for Isaac because Mother's aunt was
"pimping her out." FBSS was provided with the name
and address of a hotel and attempted to contact Mother, but
she was no longer there.
February 2016, the Department received a new referral,
alleging physical neglect of Isaac by his Mother. According
to the referral, Mother had run away from home with Isaac to
an unknown destination. The referral further stated that
Isaac had been returned to Grandmother after a few days, but
with no milk or diapers and with a runny nose. The referral
stated Mother fed the child only Kool-Aid and Powerade.
Department investigator was unable to make contact with
Mother. Grandmother had no information as to Mother's
location or contact information.
March 2016, the Department filed its original petition for
termination of the Mother's parental rights to Isaac.
commenced on February 2, 2017. The following relevant
evidence was admitted at trial: the return of citation;
Isaac's birth certificate; search results from the Court
of Continuing Jurisdiction Registry; the pretrial removal
affidavit; an adversary hearing order; a status hearing
order; family service plan; drug test orders and results;
evaluation records; the child advocates' report; and the
permanency plan and progress report.
Department caseworker testified that Isaac, who was eighteen
months old, had been placed in a home where his cousins had
been adopted. The placement was meeting his emotional and
physical needs, and the caregivers wanted to adopt Isaac. The
caseworker did not feel that it was safe to reunite Isaac
with either parent.
case initially was referred to the Department due to
neglectful supervision. Mother completed some of the
recommended services initially. Mother was drug tested during
this time and tested positive for marijuana. After Isaac was
removed and suit was filed, Mother was ordered to complete a
service plan. She tested positive for marijuana and cocaine
and failed to appear for an additional twelve ordered drug
tests. At the time of trial, she had not completed several
portions of her service plan.
had a job at Wal-Mart. She had been visiting Isaac, and the
visits were going well. Mother said she would like the child
placed with her or Grandmother.
behalf of Child Advocates, the child advocate recommended
that Mother's parental rights be terminated because
Mother had not completed her service plan or provided Isaac
with a safe home. The child advocate concluded that Mother
could not care for Isaac, pointing to Mother's drug use
and admitted prostitution. Additionally, Isaac was bonding
with his cousins in his current placement and being well
cared for. The child advocate agreed that the visits between
Isaac and Mother had gone well.
wanted Isaac placed with Grandmother while Mother's house
was being repaired due to flood damage. Mother indicated she
would be able to take Isaac after she got a stable home.
Mother requested the court not terminate her rights and
instead allow her to work towards getting Isaac home.
had been working 40 hours a week at Wal-Mart since October
2016. She felt she could provide a safe and stable home for
Isaac once her home repairs were completed. Mother had
recently taken a parenting course and previously undergone a
psychological evaluation. Mother testified there was a
communication problem with the current caseworker regarding
scheduling other services.
testified she had used marijuana, but had never used cocaine.
Her explanation of the positive cocaine test was
"probably the people I be around." Mother stated
she had stopped using marijuana, but estimated using
marijuana ten times since Isaac was born.
Trial court's termination of parental rights
trial court ordered that Mother's parental rights be
terminated. Mother's rights were terminated
under Texas Family Code section 161.001(b)(1) subsections (E)
(concerning endangerment of the child) and (O) (failure to
comply with a service plan). The court signed a final
decree memorializing its findings and appointing the
Department as Isaac's sole managing conservator. In ...