Appeal from the 315th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2016-03613J
consists of Justices Jennings, Massengale, and Caughey.
Michael Massengale Justice.
appeals arise from a decree terminating the parental rights
of both a mother and a father to their biological child, L.D.
Both parents contend that the evidence was insufficient to
support the trial court's decree. The father additionally
asserts that the evidence was insufficient to support the
appointment of the Department of Family and Protective
Services, rather than the child's paternal grandmother,
as L.D.'s sole managing conservator.
the evidence is sufficient to support termination of parental
rights of both parents, as well as the court's
appointment of the Department as L.D.'s managing
conservator, we affirm.
age of six months, L.D. was removed from the care of his
mother after the Department of Family and Protective Services
received two separate referrals alleging neglectful
supervision. First, the Department received a call reporting
that the mother was a "severe alcoholic, " she
smoked what was presumed to be marijuana in the home, she
used Xanax, and L.D.'s father had found a "meth
pipe" in the mother's laundry. It was further
alleged that the mother would get drunk and pass out, leaving
L.D. in the care of his eight-year-old sister. In a second
report, it was alleged that the mother had a history of
driving while intoxicated, and L.D. was in the vehicle when
she was arrested for driving while intoxicated. Upon
L.D.'s removal from his mother's care, he was placed
under the temporary conservatorship of the Department.
Department created separate family service plans for the
father and the mother, both of which the trial court
incorporated by reference in a status hearing order, making
the service plans orders of the court. Caseworker Jefre
Stubbs was listed as the Department's contact person on
service plans laid out the details of the
neglectful-supervision allegations as the reason for the
Department's involvement, and each set out numerous
individually-tailored tasks and services to be completed by
the parents before unification with L.D. could occur. Each
plan set out instructions for how and when the parent should
report or provide proof of completion of or participation in
each task or service. Each plan stated that its purpose was
to help the parent provide a safe environment for the child
within the specified time, and that if the parent was
unwilling or unable to provide his or her child with a safe
environment, his or her parental and custodial duties may be
restricted or terminated, or the child may not be returned to
case was tried to the bench. Although attorneys appeared on
each parent's behalf, neither the mother nor the father
personally appeared at trial. L.D.'s attorney ad litem
also appeared at trial.
Department called the assigned caseworker, Jefre Stubbs, to
testify at the trial. She testified that that L.D. had been
placed under the Department's care after the mother was
charged with driving while intoxicated when he was in the
vehicle. She stated that L.D. had been in a foster home for
the past year.
caseworker testified that the mother had started her family
service plan, but she failed to complete several tasks,
including establishing stable housing and income, and
refraining from illegal activity. The mother completed a
drug-treatment program, but the family service plan also
required the mother to "obtain a 12-step sponsor"
and "attend at least three meetings per week." The
caseworker testified, "Mom started at the beginning of
the case with AA, " but "then she stopped" due
to "her confusion between her substance abuse assessment
recommendations" and other recommendations she received
from the Department. After the Department clarified that
"AA" would need to be completed throughout the
case, the mother said she would restart the program, but she
the case, the mother submitted to random drug and alcohol
testing. She initially tested positive for marijuana and
alcohol. While a later test was negative, the mother again
tested positive for alcohol five months after L.D.'s
removal. The caseworker added that the mother's other
drug tests were negative, although one test was missed nine
months after L.D.'s removal due to a claimed
caseworker also explained that the mother visited L.D.
consistently throughout the beginning of the suit, but later
she missed three or four visits, and had last visited L.D.
approximately three weeks before trial. The caseworker had
observed the visits and noted that the mother's behavior
was "appropriate." She stated that the mother had
attended all court hearings except the final permanency
hearing held a week before trial. She further testified that
police had removed the mother from a home nine days before
trial because she was drunk and passed out. The police could
not incarcerate the mother because she was too intoxicated.
As of the date of trial, the mother was homeless.
caseworker spoke with an investigator who informed her that
criminal charges were being brought against the mother, and
one of her other children was to be removed. The caseworker
believed returning the children to their mother would
endanger them due to her alcohol abuse. She did not believe
the mother could provide minimum standards such as food,
clothing, and a safe home for L.D. because she did not have
stable housing and income.
two weeks prior to trial, the mother named her stepfather,
who lived in North Dakota, as someone who could support her.
The caseworker said that an assessment would need to be
completed before the Department could determine whether that
placement would be viable.
respect to the father, the caseworker explained that the
father had an "extensive criminal history including
assault of family members and various drug offenses." He
had completed much of his family service plan, including
parenting classes, a psychosocial evaluation and therapy, and
a DNA test. However, he did not complete domestic-violence
classes, nor did he demonstrate stable housing or income. The
father had failed to maintain communication with the
caseworker for three months prior to trial. Although the
father had tested positive for methamphetamine on one test,
he otherwise remained sober throughout the case. The father
also had visited L.D. extensively until three months before
trial, but he did not visit after that, claiming he had legal
issues that prevented him from doing so. He had attended all
court hearings until three months before trial.
caseworker had seen the father the week before trial, and he
was living with his mother. She stated that she had informed
him of the next court date, but he told her he would not go
to court to fight for his son. In addition to proclaiming
that he had other legal issues to resolve, he would not be
appearing at the next court date because the case was
"not his fault, " but instead was a result of the
mother and her sister "calling CPS on each other."
He said his legal issues included past-due child support and
a violation of probation which stemmed from charges of
evading arrest and assault on a family member. The caseworker
testified that he had to pay $1, 000 to resolve the
child-support issue, but she was unsure if he had resolved
the probation issue.
caseworker further testified that although the current foster
family did not want to adopt L.D., the Department had
identified an adoptive placement and the child's visits
with the potential adoptive family had gone
"great." She explained that L.D. had already bonded
with another child at the adoptive placement, and his
sibling, who is also ...