Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, El Paso
from 65th District Court of El Paso County, Texas (TC #
McClure, C.J., Rodriguez, and Palafox, JJ.
CRAWFORD MCCLURE, CHIEF JUSTICE.
appeal is from a judgment terminating the parental rights of
L.H. to her daughter. We affirm.
hereinafter referred to as "Laura, " is the
biological mother of one-year-old
"Penny."Laura has four other biological children
ranging in age from about three to seventeen years of age.
All four of these children have been removed from Laura's
care and her parental rights to two of the children have been
terminated. Laura's mother, Ava, adopted one of the
children, and she is the managing conservator of two of the
other children. Ava and these children live in California.
Laura's brother adopted the fourth child. According to
Ava, Laura has mental illness and behaves erratically when
she does not take her medication. Ava further explained that
Laura usually did not take her medication and this was a
source of conflict between them. Laura frequently "took
off with one or more of the children and moved from state to
state. The children were removed at different points in time
because Laura did not provide care for them. Laura sometimes
fed the children candy rather than nutritious food, and she
had trouble waking up to take them to school or pick them up
later in the day. One of the children suffered a burn injury
and she left another child locked inside of a U-Haul truck.
2016, Laura was pregnant and living alone in Sierra Blanca,
Texas, in a small storage shed without electricity, heat,
plumbing, or running water. She explained that she had moved
to Texas to buy a ranch "with no money down" but
the property did not have electricity, sewage lines, or
water. Laura has been receiving assistance from the Emergence
Health Network (EHN) since November 23, 2015, and she
regularly attends EHN counseling sessions. EHN worked with
Laura to help her obtain a Texas ID card and bus pass and to
also teach her basic skills needed for daily life, such as
personal hygiene, taking medication daily, and money
management. As the designated payee of Laura's SSI, EHN
pays her rent and other bills. On the night Laura went
into labor in January 2016, she was found wandering the
streets in Sierra Blanca when the temperature was in the
lower 30's. An acquaintance took her to the jail so she
would have a warm and safe place to sleep. When Laura went
into labor, EMS transported her to El Paso. After Penny was
born, hospital personnel observed that Laura was exhibiting
cognitive deficits and a psychiatric examination was
conducted. The examination revealed that Laura did not have
the cognitive ability to care for her newborn child, she
could not make decisions for herself, and she was having
difficulty caring for herself without supervision.
Consequently, the hospital made a report to the Department.
The Department substantiated the allegations of neglectful
supervision and removed the three-day old child from
Laura's care. The trial court granted the Department
temporary custody of Penny, and the Department placed her
with Ava in California. Laura has lived in El Paso since
Penny was born.
Department developed a service plan for Laura and the trial
court ordered her to comply with each of its requirements.
The service plan required Laura to participate in parenting
classes and counseling to address personal issues surrounding
the removal of her children. The requirement that Laura
attend parenting classes gave her an opportunity to learn
parenting skills and demonstrate that she could provide
long-term care for the child. Laura did not, however, attend
the parenting classes. Laura testified that she attended the
counseling sessions, but the evidence showed that she was
referring to the EHN counseling sessions. The service plan
also required Laura to attend visitations with Penny. Laura
attended some but not all of the scheduled visitations. She
satisfied the service plan's requirements that she
participate in a psychological evaluation and OSAR
Department filed a termination petition alleging that Laura:
(1) knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the child to remain
in conditions or surroundings which endanger the physical or
emotional well-being of the child (Section 161.001 (b)(l)(D),
Texas Family Code); (2) engaged in conduct or knowingly
placed the child with persons who engaged in conduct which
endangers the physical or emotional well-being of the child
(Section 161.00l(b)(1)(E), Texas Family Code); and (3) failed
to comply with the provisions of a court order that
specifically established the actions necessary for the mother
to obtain the return of the child who has been in the
permanent or temporary managing conservatorship of the
Department of Family and Protective Services for not less
than nine months as a result of the child's removal from
the parent under Chapter 262 for the abuse or neglect of the
child (Section 161.00l(b)(1)(O), Texas Family Code). The
trial court found that the Department had proven the
termination grounds under Section 161.001(b)(1)(E) and (O) by
clear and convincing evidence, and that termination of
Laura's parental rights were in the child's best
interest. The trial court appointed the Department as the
permanent managing conservator of the child.
GROUNDS AND BEST INTEREST UNDER SECTION 161.001
raises three issues challenging the legal and factual
sufficiency of the evidence supporting the trial court's
findings. In Issues One and Two, Laura attacks the legal and
factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting the two
predicate termination grounds found by the trial court under
Section 161.001(b)(1). In Issue Three, she challenges the
legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting the
best interest finding made under Section 161.001(b)(2).
rights may be involuntarily terminated through proceedings
brought under Section 161.001 of the Texas Family Code.
See Tex.Fam.Code Ann. § 161.001 (West Supp.
2017). Under this provision, the petitioner must (1)
establish one or more of the statutory acts or omissions
enumerated as grounds for termination, and (2) prove that
termination is in the best interest of the children. See
id. Both elements must be established and termination
may not be based solely on the best interest of the child as
determined by the trier of fact. Texas Department of
Human Services v. Boyd, 727 S.W.2d 531, 533 (Tex. 1987);
In the Interest of A.B.B., 482 S.W.3d 135, 138
(Tex.App.--El Paso 2015, pet. dism'd w.o.j.). Only one
predicate finding under Section 161.001(b)(1) is necessary to
support a judgment of termination when there is also a
finding that termination is in the child's best interest.
In re A.V., 113 S.W.3d 355, 362 (Tex. 2003). We will
affirm the termination order if the evidence is both legally
and factually sufficient to support any alleged statutory
ground the trial court relied upon in terminating the
parental rights as well as the finding of best interest.
J.S v. Texas Department of Family and Protective
Services, 511 S.W.3d 145, 159 (Tex.App.--El
Paso 2014, no pet).
reviewing the legal sufficiency of the evidence in a
termination case, we consider all of the evidence in the
light most favorable to the trial court's finding,
"to determine whether a reasonable trier of fact could
have formed a firm belief or conviction that its finding was
true." In the Interest of J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d
570, 573 (Tex. 2005), quoting In re J.F.C, 96 S.W.3d
256, 266 (Tex. 2002); see In re J.O.A., 283 S.W.3d
336, 344 (Tex. 2009). We give deference to the fact
finder's conclusions, indulge every reasonable inference
from the evidence in favor of that finding, and presume the
fact finder resolved any disputed facts in favor of its
findings, so long as a reasonable fact finder could do so.
In the Interest of J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d at 573. We
disregard any ...