Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
the 45th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2016-PA-00978 Honorable John D. Gabriel, Jr., Judge
C. Martinez, Justice, Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice, Irene
C. MARTINEZ, JUSTICE.
appeals the trial court's order terminating his parental
rights to R.C.M. C.M. contends the evidence is insufficient
to support the trial court's finding that termination of
his parental rights was in R.C.M.'s best interest. We
affirm the trial court's order.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services filed its
original petition to terminate C.M.'s parental rights on
May 6, 2016. A bench trial on the merits was held on May 3,
2017. At that time, R.C.M. had just turned one.
Davis, the Department's legal caseworker, testified that
R.C.M. was placed in the Department's care on May 17,
2016, because both C.M. and R.C.M.'s mother were using
drugs throughout the pregnancy. At birth, R.C.M. tested
positive for amphetamines, benzodiazepines, and opiates and
experienced withdrawals. Davis testified that when she
discussed the reason for the removal of the child with C.M.
and R.C.M.'s mother, both admitted to using drugs prior
to the birth despite knowing that it was not in the best
interest of R.C.M. After the Department removed R.C.M. from
C.M.'s care, Davis discussed C.M.'s service plan with
him; however, C.M. did not complete any items on the plan
despite Davis setting up referrals and appointments for C.M.
to attend parenting classes, a psychosocial evaluation, and
was scheduled to have weekly court-ordered visitation with
R.C.M. contingent on negative drug test results. Davis
testified that C.M. had not visited with R.C.M. since his
removal and, as a result, Davis was unable to say whether
there was a bond between C.M. and R.C.M. Davis testified that
C.M. did not demonstrate an ability to give R.C.M. a safe
home environment, to effectively and positively change his
environment, or give R.C.M. the attention he needed due to
his age and vulnerability. Additionally, there were no other
family members who wanted to be considered for placement of
R.C.M. Davis believed termination of C.M.'s parental
rights was in R.C.M.'s best interest.
testified telephonically. He stated that he was currently
incarcerated for credit card fraud after violating the terms
of his probation. He believed he would be released in 2020,
or perhaps sooner if he were paroled. He testified that he
was aware of the family service plan, but had not actually
received it. He stated that he completed a full month of Drug
Court and passed a urinalysis test, but still was not allowed
to see R.C.M. He had been imprisoned since October of 2016.
C.M. admitted to not having a plan for how he would be able
to provide for R.C.M. during his incarceration.
Department's long-term goal is for R.C.M. to be adopted
by the foster family with whom he currently resides. Davis
testified that the foster family is stable, prepared to adopt
R.C.M., and able to care for R.C.M. R.C.M.'s attorney ad
litem also recommended that termination of C.M.'s
parental rights was in the best interest of R.C.M.
hearing the above testimony, the trial court rendered
judgment terminating C.M.'s parental rights. C.M. timely
terminate parental rights pursuant to section 161.001 of the
Family Code, the Department has the burden to prove: (1) one
of the predicate grounds in subsection 161.001(b)(1); and (2)
that termination is in the best interest of the child.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001 (West Supp.
2016); In re A.V., 113 S.W.3d 355, 362 (Tex. 2003).
The clear and convincing standard is the applicable burden of
proof in termination cases. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
161.206(a) (West 2014); In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256,
263 (Tex. 2002). "'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 (West
2014). This heightened standard stems from the unalterable
changes and permanency that termination of a parent-child
relationship causes both the child and the parent. In re
D.M., 452 S.W.3d 462, 469 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2014,
no pet.). Consequently, termination proceedings are strictly
scrutinized and "involuntary termination statutes are
strictly construed in favor of the parent." Holick
v. Smith, 685 S.W.2d 18, 20 (Tex. 1985).
reviewing the legal sufficiency of the evidence to support
the termination of parental rights, the court must "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.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." Id. "A
corollary to this requirement is that a court should