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In re A. L. T.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

November 8, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF A. L. T., a Child

         From the 408th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016-PA-01692 Honorable Richard Garcia, Judge Presiding .

          Karen Angelini, Justice, Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice, Irene Rios, Justice.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KAREN ANGELINI, JUSTICE.

         David T. appeals the trial court's termination of his parental rights to his daughter, A.L.T.[1] In a single issue on appeal, David challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's finding that termination of his parental rights was in A.L.T.'s best interest. We affirm the trial court's order.

         BACKGROUND

         On August 4, 2016, the Department of Family and Protective Services (the "Department") filed its petition to terminate David's parental rights. The termination hearing before the bench commenced on July 10, 2017. A.L.T. was born on July 19, 2015, and was almost two years old at the time of the hearing.

         Only two witnesses testified at the termination hearing, Katie Walston for the Department and David who testified telephonically because he was incarcerated. Walston testified that when A.L.T. was born, she tested positive for opiates, suffered from withdrawal symptoms, and remained in the hospital for about one month. Upon her release from the hospital, A.L.T. went to live with her maternal aunt and uncle, with whom she continues to live. A.L.T.'s mother tested positive for opiates, cocaine, and amphetamines. Walston stated A.L.T. is doing well and is on-track developmentally; she is in the only home she has ever known; and her aunt and uncle are willing to adopt her and they provide her a safe, stable, and loving home. A.L.T. calls them her "mom" and "dad" or "mama" and "dada."

         Walston said David is currently incarcerated for possession of a controlled substance, one to four grams. She first met with David in September 2016 when he was in the Bexar County jail and they discussed the case. After David was transferred to the Garza West Unit in Beeville, Texas, Walston spoke to a social worker at the unit who said the unit offered classes such as ones for substance abuse and coping with life outside the facility. However, the social worker said David had to enroll himself in the classes. Walston stated she provided a service plan to David that allowed him to complete any services available to him at his facility, as well as engage in any available counseling. As of the time of the termination hearing, David had not engaged in any of the requirements on his service plan and had not enrolled in any classes offered at the Garza West Unit. When asked if she believed A.L.T. would be safe if returned to David's care, Walston responded:

No. . . . [David] has also displayed a consistent pattern of drug use and criminal activity. He has been incarcerated the entirety of this case and will not be released until June of 2018, [A.L.T.] does not have a bond with him. He has not supported [A.L.T.] or provided any type of stability for her. . . . It has been over a year and a half [since David visited A.L.T.].

         In addition to drug possession, David's criminal past includes theft, burglaries, and robberies. According to Walston, David has not shown a willingness to effect a positive environment or make positive changes in his life, and he has not shown that he can properly care for and nurture A.L.T.

         At the beginning of the case in July 2015 when A.L.T. was born, and before David's July 2016 incarceration, David and A.L.T.'s mother were engaged in a family-based plan with the Department. During this time, David refused to take a drug test and had only "a few inconsistent visits" with his daughter. Walston said the last visit was Easter of 2016. The Department filed its petition to terminate parental rights on August 4, 2016. Since their September 2016 meeting in the Bexar County jail, Walston has communicated with David only by letters. In his most recent letter, David indicated he was still trying to enroll in classes.

         David testified telephonically. He recalled meeting Walston at the Bexar County jail and that she gave him a service plan. He said he has taken classes in parenting, anger management, and "New Life Behaviours, " and he has the certificates for each. David said Walston included classes on his service plan that are not offered at the Garza West Unit and the unit does not offer therapy. David said his release date is June 27, 2018, and he has been denied parole. He does not want his parental rights terminated.

         At the conclusion of the evidence, the trial court terminated David's parental rights, and he now appeals.

         STANDARD ...


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