Appeal from the 314th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2016-03574J
consists of Justices Christopher, Brown, and Wise.
trial court terminated the parental rights of Mother and
Father (appellant R.W.) with respect to their son, Michael,
appointed the Texas Department of Family and Protective
Services (the Department) to be Michael's managing
conservator. On appeal, Father challenges the sufficiency of
the evidence to support termination. We conclude legally and
factually sufficient evidence supports the trial court's
findings that Father endangered Michael and that termination
of the parent-child relationship is in Michael's best
interest. Therefore, we affirm the trial court's
following facts come from the affidavit of Department
investigative caseworker Samantha Nix.
Department received a referral about newborn Michael in June
2016. The reporter said Mother tested positive for marijuana,
benzodiazepine, amphetamine, and opiates at the time Michael
was born. The results of Michael's drug tests were not
available at the time, but it was later determined that
Michael was born with marijuana, benzodiazepine, and opioids
in his system.
visited Mother in a Houston hospital the day after
Michael's birth. Mother identified Father as
Michael's biological father and said he was working in
Galveston. Understanding Michael would be removed from her
care, Mother told Nix she wanted the baby to be with Father.
Mother left the hospital against medical advice later that
not able to contact Father. She learned during her
investigation that he had several convictions for
to locate a suitable placement for Michael, the Department
removed Michael and filed this suit, attaching Nix's
affidavit to the original petition. The trial court signed an
emergency order allowing the removal and naming the
Department as Michael's temporary managing conservator.
Family service plan
a full adversary hearing, the trial court signed an order
requiring Father to comply with any family service plan by
the Department. The service plan would identify the goals he
needed to achieve and tasks and services he needed to
complete before Michael could be returned to his care.
service plan's goals for Father included: (1) his
willingness and ability to protect Michael from harm and to
provide basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter,
and medical care for him; (2) his active participation in
therapy to understand how substance abuse may impact his
current parenting style; (3) his provision of safe and stable
housing for Michael; and (4) his understanding of the serious
situation that placed Michael in harm's way.
he could accomplish those goals, the Department's service
plan for Father required him to, among other things: (1)
complete parenting classes; (2) complete a substance abuse
assessment and follow the assessor's recommendations; (3)
submit to random drug testing and test negative at all times;
(4) complete a psychosocial evaluation and follow the
evaluator's recommendations; (5) obtain and maintain
suitable employment and stable housing; (6) refrain from
criminal activity; (7) maintain regular contact with the
caseworker; and (8) make his best effort to attend all
hearings, meetings, and scheduled visitations with Michael.
was held in May 2017. The Department presented testimony from
caseworker Keverlyn Walker; Bruce Jefferies, an employee of a
drug testing facility; and Father. The Department's
documentary evidence included the parents' service plans,
drug test results, and judgments of criminal convictions, as
well as Michael's medical records. Neither Mother,
Father, nor Michael's attorney ad litem called witnesses
or offered evidence. Mother did not attend trial personally;
she was incarcerated in Mississippi at the time.
Evidence about Michael
was positive at birth for benzodiazepines, opioids, and
cannabinoids. Diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome, he
spent the first three months of his life in the hospital,
where he was treated for withdrawal.
in the case, Michael's paternal grandmother asked that he
be placed with her. The Department declined to conduct a home
study on her, however, because she tested positive for
cocaine and withheld information about some of the people
living in her house.
released, Michael was placed with a foster family, and he
remained in that home through the time of trial. Walker
testified the foster parents were meeting all of
Michael's physical and emotional needs. She reported
Michael was well-bonded to his foster parents and foster
siblings. The foster parents were willing to adopt Michael.
testified he was ready to care for Michael, and his family
would help as well:
I'm willing for it. I'm ready to be able to take care
of my son, you know. I have family that's willing to help
me, know what I'm saying, everything that went through
the family plan that want to get the placement, you know,
they had records over 20 years ago, you know. So she was
saying just cause it was 20 years ago, that the family - my
baby couldn't be placed in that and they doing good for
theyself. She never did the home study for them and -
My uncle and my brother been at least ten years ago. My
brother and his wife, [J.W.] and [R.W.], they've been
over ten years cases. He's been convicted but it's
been over ten years. But I know it's a good person that
my family would be involved with the placement at that time.
My brother . . . got a company, got a nice home off 1960 and
he doing very good for hisself right now. You know he take
care of a bunch of kids, you know, she just never did the
Evidence about Father
Ability to ...