Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo
Appeal from the 100th District Court Collingsworth County,
Texas Trial Court No. 8001, Honorable Stuart Messer,
QUINN, C.J., and CAMPBELL and PIRTLE, JJ.
mother of A.M., appeals the order terminating her parental
rights. She contends that the evidence is neither legally nor
factually sufficient to support the two statutory grounds for
termination found by the trial court. Nor does it allegedly
support the finding that termination is in the best interest
of A.M. We affirm.
of Review - Statutory Ground
trial court found the evidence to be clear and convincing on
grounds D and E of § 161.001(b)(1) of the Texas Family
Code. We need only find that one ground was sufficiently
supported by the evidence to affirm the termination of
R.M.'s parental rights. See In re A.V., 113
S.W.3d 355, 362 (Tex. 2003). Furthermore, the standard by
which we review the order is that discussed in In re
K.M.L, 443 S.W.3d 101, 112-13 (Tex. 2014), In re
C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 25-26 (Tex. 2002), and In re
B.P., No. 07-14-00037-CV, 2014 Tex.App. LEXIS 8127, at
8-10 (Tex. App.-Amarillo July 25, 2014, pet. denied) (mem.
we conclude that the evidence supported termination under
§ 161.001(b)(1)(D) of the Family Code. That provision
allows a trial court to order termination when the parent
knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the child to remain in
conditions or surroundings endangering the physical or
emotional well-being of the child. See Tex. Fam.
Code Ann. § 161.001 (b)(1)(D) (West Supp. 2016).
endanger means to expose to loss or injury or to jeopardize.
In re H.L, No. 07-17-00070-CV, 2017 Tex.App. LEXIS
6533, at *13 (Tex. App.-Amarillo July 13, 2017, no pet.)
(mem. op.). That requires more than a threat of metaphysical
injury or potential ill effects of a less-than-ideal family
environment. In re N.M., No. 07-17-00003, 2017
Tex.App. LEXIS 4466, at *4 (Tex. App.-Amarillo May 16, 2017,
pet. denied) (mem. op.) (per curiam). Yet, inappropriate,
abusive, or unlawful conduct of the parent or of another who
lives in the child's home may create an environment that
endangers the physical and emotional well-being of a child.
In re R.S.-T., No. 04-16-00724-CV, 2017 Tex.App.
LEXIS 4486, at *36 (Tex. App.-San Antonio May 17, 2017, no
pet.). Examples of such an environment include one in which
the parent or caregiver engages in illegal drug use. See
In re T.B., No. 07-12-00538-CV, 2013 Tex.App. LEXIS
6728, at *15 (Tex. App.-Amarillo May 31, 2013, no pet.) (mem.
op.). And, one instance of endangerment suffices. See In
re R.S.-T, 2017 Tex.App. LEXIS 4486, at *36.
satisfying the mens rea element of the statute does
not require proof that the parent knew "for
certain" that the child was in an endangering
environment; it need only be shown that the parent was aware
of the potential for endangering the child created by the
environment and disregarded the risk. See In re
M.T.C., No. 04-16-00548-CV, 2017 Tex.App. LEXIS 1257, at
*7-8 (Tex. App.-San Antonio, Feb. 15, 2017, no pet.) (mem.
op.); In re T.B., 2013 Tex.App. LEXIS 6728, at *14.
record before us contains evidence of R.M. and her mother
being found unconscious atop household furniture while A.M.,
a fifteen-month-old toddler, walked about the area. Pill
bottles and medications were within the area and reach of the
child. This circumstance was witnessed by a worker for Early
Childhood Intervention Services. The latter person then
contacted the local sheriff. When the sheriff arrived, he
also found R.M. and her mother unconscious, and took pictures
of the two as they slept. Though they would rouse
momentarily, they soon returned to unconsciousness. The
sheriff contacted Children's Protective Service (CPS) and
emergency medical services.
led to the discovery of hydrocodone and like opioids in
R.M.'s body. R.M. would later attempt to explain the
incident as her reaction to NyQuil taken due to a bout with
the flu, however. Yet, she consumed the substance at 9 a.m.,
knew it would cause her to sleep, and remained
semi-unconscious or asleep for well into the mid-afternoon.
When asked how she intended to watch her child while under
the influence of the medicine, R.M. responded that the
toddler was also asleep. In other words, her plan was to hope
that the child slept through the day as well; yet, that did
not happen. At the very least, this evidence indicates that
R.M. was aware of the need to supervise the child but
nevertheless took the medicine knowing of its likely effect
without instituting a viable manner of caring for the fifteen
month old. The simplistic plan went awry when the child awoke
long before either R.M. or the child's grandmother. This
left the child free to wander unsupervised through an area
strewn with medicine and pills.
events resulted in the indictment of R.M. for the crime of
child endangerment. She pled guilty, had the adjudication of
her guilt deferred, and received five years of probation.
NyQuil was not the only substance affecting R.M. at the time.
She was also taking Ambien to help her sleep, Tylenol 4
(i.e., acetaminophen and codeine) to help her live with knee
pain, and Buspirone or Ativan for anxiety.
further illustrated that, six weeks earlier, R.M. was
discharged from the Wellington Pain Clinic for violating her
"pain contract." Apparently, she had given away
pills prescribed to her and solicited "controlled
substances" in place of her regular medications. Pain
medication no longer being available ...