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In re K.D.F.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

November 22, 2017


         From the 285th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2015PA02340 Honorable John D. Gabriel, Jr., Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice, Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice, Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice


          Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice

         M.F., the mother of K.D.F., appeals the trial court's order terminating her parental rights. The only issue M.F. presents is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's finding that termination of her parental rights was in K.D.F.'s best interest. We affirm the trial court's order.


         On November 4, 2015, the Department filed its petition to terminate M.F.'s parental rights. A bench trial was held on July 5, 2017. On the date of the trial, K.D.F. was thirteen years old.

         The only witness to testify was the Department's case worker who was appointed to the case in November of 2015. The case worker testified that the case actually started in 2014 when K.D.F.'s older sister, T.F., tested positive for cocaine when she gave birth, and an investigation established she tested positive because M.F., her mother, and her father were smoking crack cocaine while caring for T.F. and K.D.F. While the case was pending, T.F. turned eighteen and elected to stay in the Department's care.

         The case worker testified the family has a significant history with the Department, including allegations of physical abuse and sexual abuse of T.F. by her older brother while in her parents' care. Because of this history, K.D.F. had spent about six years of her life in the Department's care while various cases were pending. K.D.F. suffers from mood disorders and ADHD and has required hospitalization a few times. The case worker testified K.D.F. needs "a more specialized level of attention, " but her parents took no actions to address those concerns. K.D.F. also has a learning disability.

         M.F.'s service plan required her to undertake a drug assessment, drug treatment, random drug testing, and a psychological evaluation. M.F. also was required to engage in individual counseling and to participate in parent-child visits. Finally, M.F. was required to obtain stable housing. M.F. completed the services and did not use drugs from February of 2016 to October of 2016; however, she relapsed in March of 2017, just before K.D.F. was to be returned home. K.D.F. informed the case worker about the relapse and told him she did not want to return home. When the case worker spoke with M.F., she admitted to using marijuana and cocaine and to taking more than her prescribed dosage of Xanax. At that time, M.F. refused to undertake a hair follicle test; however, she submitted to the test a few weeks later and tested positive for cocaine. Although another drug treatment program was recommended, M.F. did not complete the program. On cross-examination, the case worker admitted M.F. told him on the day of trial that she had been unable to start the program because of a lack of availability. The case worker stated he had been unable to confirm whether or not space was available. The case worker also stated M.F.'s phone was disconnected, and he did not have a phone number to call her. M.F. left the case worker only two voice mails in the three months after she tested positive, and she never left a phone number where the case worker could return her calls.

         Prior to K.D.F. reporting M.F.'s relapse, the trial court signed an order authorizing a monitored return of K.D.F. to M.F.'s care; however, the monitored return did not occur because M.F. lied about not being in a relationship with K.D.F.'s father who had refused to engage in services. The case worker believed M.F. and K.D.F.'s father were still involved in a relationship because K.D.F. called her father's phone to speak with M.F. M.F. told the case worker K.D.F.'s father was selling his prescription medication for $3, 000-$4, 000 each month.

         The case worker testified M.F. had not made the necessary changes for K.D.F. to be returned to her care. The case worker explained M.F. had been abusing drugs for many years causing K.D.F. to cycle in and out of the Department's care when M.F. relapsed. When M.F. agreed to a drug test the morning of trial, she told the case worker she had taken double her prescribed dose of Xanax. The case worker stated that allowing K.D.F. to have contact with M.F. stresses K.D.F. and causes her guilt when she is truthful with the Department about M.F.'s drug use.

         The case worker testified K.D.F.'s behavior has improved while in the Department's care, and she is learning coping skills to manage her mood disorder. Although K.D.F. loves M.F., she wants to be adopted, move forward, and be free of the stress.

         At the conclusion of the evidence, the trial court terminated M.F.'s parental rights, and M.F. appeals.

         Standard ...

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