IN THE INTEREST OF P.M.B. AND M.A.B., CHILDREN
Appeal from the 313th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2013-03802J
consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Higley and
Carter Higley Justice.
a bench trial, the trial court signed a judgment terminating
the parent-child relationship between C.E.B.
("Mother") and her two minor sons, eight-year-old
P.M.B. and seven-year-old M.A.B. The trial court also
appointed the Department of Family and Protective Services
("the Department") as the boys' sole managing
conservator. In three issues, Mother contends that the
evidence was not legally or factually sufficient to support
termination of her parental rights or to support appointment
of the Department as her sons' sole managing conservator.
Department first became involved with P.M.B. and M.A.B. in
February 2013. The Department received a referral that the
boys' father ("Father") had become intoxicated
and had hit then three-year-old M.A.B. in the face. As
result, Mother took the boys to live with their maternal
2013, the Department received another referral alleging that
the maternal grandmother had physically abused P.M.B. while
the grandmother was intoxicated. Because of the reoccurring
domestic abuse, the Department filed suit, seeking temporary
conservatorship of the two boys, which was granted. Mother
was provided a family service plan to assist in regaining
custody of the boys.
to the plan, Mother participated in services including
parenting classes, domestic violence classes, and individual
therapy. After 13 months, the boys were returned to her care.
In 2015, the family court signed a decree, appointing Mother
as the boys' sole managing conservator. The decree did
not give Father any rights to the boys.
March 2016, the Department received another referral,
alleging physical abuse and neglectful supervision of
seven-year-old P.M.B. The referral stated that P.M.B. had
been observed with purple and black bruises covering his
Department filed a motion to modify conservatorship and for
termination of parental rights. To support its request for
temporary orders, the Department offered the affidavit of its
representative, D. Brown. She testified that P.M.B. had
reported that Mother's friend, Nick, had beat him at
Mother's request. P.M.B. said that another of
Mother's friends, Jay, also had hit him a couple of
times. The referral stated that Nick and Jay had used their
fists to beat P.M.B. It was reported that "the incident
occurred on 3-23-16 after [P.M.B.] received a bad conduct
grade at school." P.M.B. reported that he also had
bruising on his chest and back, but those bruises had faded.
P.M.B. also reported that he "could barely raise his
arm, and indicated that he was fearful of his mother finding
out that his bruises had been seen."
requested by the Department, the trial court again named the
Department as P.M.B.'s and M.A.B.'s temporary
managing conservator. To facilitate the return of the
children to Mother, the Department developed a family service
plan for Mother to follow. The initial concerns stated in the
service plan included the following: (1) physical abuse of
the children; (2) Mother "does not think it is wrong to
allow others to hit her children"; (3) Mother
"speaks badly" to the children and "curses
them"; and (4) "services completed by the mother
from [the] prior case did not benefit her."
service plan set out several tasks and services for Mother to
complete before reunification with her children could occur,
including completing parenting and domestic-violence classes
and individual counseling. Mother was also required to
participate in a psychological examination, visit her
children at CPS's office twice per month, maintain
suitable housing and employment, and refrain from engaging in
any illegal and criminal activities.
maintained stable employment and housing while the case was
pending. She participated in the services listed in her
service plan, completing her parenting classes and individual
therapy and attending domestic abuse classes.
also participated in a psychological examination in September
2016. The psychologist's report from the evaluation
includes a history of events that Mother provided to the
psychologist. Mother told the psychologist that she also has
a 14-year-old daughter, who has a different father than the
P.M.B. and M.A.B. Mother reported that there was a history of
domestic violence with her daughter's father. Mother
acknowledged that CPS had investigated allegations of abuse
and neglect with respect to her daughter in 2003. Mother also
reported that her daughter's father had committed
domestic abuse against her at the time of the CPS
investigation. Nonetheless, Mother lost custody of her
daughter, who now lives with her father. Mother has not seen
her daughter for 12 years.
respect to P.M.B. and M.A.B., Mother told the psychologist
that the Department originally became involved with the
family in 2013 because Father had abused the boys. Mother
stated that, when he was drunk, Father had "'drop
kicked' [P.M.B.] in the chest and threw him out of the
door, and 'open-handed' [M.A.B.] across the
face." She "reported that the police were called to
their home for domestic violence and indicated that [Father]
was finally arrested for violating probation." Mother
told the psychologist that "she only stayed in the
relationship [with Father] because of their children."
reported that she and the boys had then left Father and moved
in with her mother. The maternal grandmother was then accused
of public intoxication and striking P.M.B. She said that
"CPS removed the children because she lived at her
parents' home and CPS felt it was unsafe." Mother
stated that she completed a family service plan, including
parenting classes, domestic violence classes, and attended
individual therapy. The boys were returned to her care 13
months after their removal.
respect to the boys' most recent removal by the
Department, Mother stated that P.M.B.'s school contacted
the Department because P.M.B. had bruises. She said that
P.M.B. had reported that "Nick and Jay beat P.M.B. up,
and that [Mother] watched them do this." Mother
described Nick as an "ex-friend" and Jay as an
"ex-boyfriend." She said that she described them as
"exes" because they both had refused to speak to
CPS regarding the allegations that Mother had them beat
report states that Mother denied instructing Nick and Jay to
beat up P.M.B. Mother indicated to the psychologist that
[P.M.B.] "pulls this to get attention, and boy did he
ever get the attention." Mother said that P.M.B. has
ADHD and "anger issues." She described him as being
"as highly aggressive." Mother reported that
"[P.M.B.] will lie to get his way 'to make life
difficult for me.'" And Mother "indicated that
[P.M.B.] will become aggressive if he does not get his way,
and noted that the majority of time [M.A.B.] was the one
told the psychologist that P.M.B.'s bruises had resulted
from his fighting with M.A.B., not from being beaten by her
adult friends. Mother explained that P.M.B. had bullied
M.A.B., and she had then allowed M.A.B. to push P.M.B. out a
deer stand four or five times, resulting in the bruising
reported to the Department. The report stated that, when the
psychologist "asked about allegations that she had
instructed M.A.B. to beat [P.M.B.'s] 'ass, '
[Mother] indicated that she has instructed [M.A.B.] to do
this." Mother told the psychologist "that [M.A.B.]
needs to stand up for himself and needs to know that he is
going to have to fight if he is getting picked on."
also said she "'went off' on CPS during the
investigation, telling them that [P.M.B.] is lying and
'trying to play' them." Mother had then
"added that she is not raising '2 punk-ass boys,
'" and she "indicated that in her house 'we
do have discipline.'" Mother also told the
psychologist that "she does not have the physical
strength to 'kick their asses like they need
end of the report, the psychologist concluded,
"[Mother's] comments suggest that she holds and
exhibits some dysfunctional parenting beliefs and behavior,
including encouraging physical aggression in her children,
overvaluing corporal punishment, and holding distorted
beliefs regarding her children's behavior (e.g., [P.M.B.]
lies 'to make life difficult for me')." The
psychologist also noted that Mother "denied allowing
adult males to physically assault [P.M.B.] as a form of
discipline" and had "attributed this allegation to
[P.M.B.] and [M.A.B.] lying." The psychologist wrote,
"Should CPS and/or the court determine that this
allegation is true, then [Mother's] failure to accept
responsibility for this behavior (in conjunction with her
placing blame on her children) would be of significant
psychologist also recommended that Mother be evaluated by a
substance-abuse counselor because she had tested positive for
marijuana in May 2016. She also tested positive for marijuana
in and September 2016. Mother later testified at trial that
she had not used marijuana; rather, she was exposed to others
smoking marijuana where she worked.
service plan required her to attend supervised visits with
the boys at CPS's offices. However, in September 2016,
the trial court suspended Mother's visits with P.M.B. and
M.A.B. because Mother was having inappropriate conversations
with the children about the case. Mother told the boys not to
take their medicine because it would make them
"zombies." She also told the boys that the
Department's caseworker and the boys' foster mother
were trying to take them away from her and that they would
never see her again.
Department ultimately sought to terminate the parent-child
relationship between Mother and P.M.B. and
M.A.B. In seeking termination, the Department
asserted that Mother had engaged in conduct that endangered
the children and that she had failed to comply with the
family service plan.
case was tried to the bench, beginning on March 21, 2017.
Among the documentary evidence admitted at trial was
Mother's family service plan and the report from
Mother's psychological evaluation. Mother testified, and
the trial court was continued until April 18, 2017. When
trial recommenced in April, the Department's caseworker,
D. Byrd, testified. Trial was then recessed for three months
to permit the Department to nationally broadcast that the
children were available for adoption. Trial resumed on July
12, 2017. Mother and Byrd both were recalled to testify.
testimony was largely consistent with the information that
she had provided to the psychologist during her psychological
evaluation. Mother testified that she was aware that P.M.B.
and M.A.B. had reported that she had asked her adult, male
friends to "beat up" P.M.B. and that she had been
present when her friends assaulted P.M.B. She knew that this
was the reason that the boys were taken from her care. Mother
denied that this had occurred and indicated that her sons
were "liars." She claimed that P.M.B. had lied
about being beaten in order to "make things difficult
for [her]." Mother indicated that P.M.B. wanted to be
with Father and that was the reason that he had lied.
admitted that she had said that she "[did] not have the
strength to kick your boys' asses like they needed"
but denied that she had ever asked anyone to do this for her.
Mother stated that she would "never let anybody touch my
kids." However, Mother acknowledged that she had
"probably" told P.M.B. during CPS's
investigation that he had "better recant what the f-k he
said." Mother also acknowledged that she had told her
two young sons "to get their shit out of [her] home . .
. if they were lying" about the beating.
asked why the boys had been removed from her care, Mother
responded that it was because P.M.B. wanted to be with
Father. Mother stated she had learned that her mother was
permitting the boys to see Father without Mother's
knowledge. Mother indicated that she believed that P.M.B.
made up the allegations about the beating so that he could
live with Father.
asked how P.M.B. had gotten the bruises, Mother explained
that P.M.B. was bullying M.A.B. while they were at her
parents' house. Mother said that she "got fed up
with it" and told M.A.B. to defend himself. M.A.B. then
pushed P.M.B. "out of the deer stand" repeatedly,
and P.M.B. "landed on the ground on his chest."
After M.A.B. pushed P.M.B. out the deer stand five times,
Mother stated that she intervened to stop it. Mother denied
that she encouraged M.A.B. to fight; rather, she encouraged
him to defend himself.
answered affirmatively when asked whether she was aware that
the boys "exhibited very bad aggression" and
"aggressive tendencies" for their age. She
attributed the boys' aggressive behavior to
"everything they have witnessed" with respect to
the domestic abuse perpetrated by Father when she and Father
were living together. Mother testified that "[Father]
beat the crap out of me and my two boys." She stated
that Father had "physically inflicted wounds and
bruising" on the boys. Mother described the abuse as
"sustained." She stated that the police were called
but no charges were ever filed against Father.
respect to the earlier CPS investigation, Mother acknowledged
that the report had been that her mother-the boys'
maternal grandmother-had hit the boys while being
intoxicated. Mother clarified that it had been her niece, not
her mother, who had hit P.M.B.
stated that she had learned that the boys were taking ADHD
medication. She also testified that she had heard that their
behavior, particularly P.M.B.'s behavior, had improved
while in the Department's care.
testified that she had completed the services required in the
family service plan. She also testified that she had
maintained employment and housing throughout the case. She
indicated that she had her anger under better control and had
learned in parenting classes that "children are still
people and they still have feelings and you've got to be
cautious as to how we talk to them and treat them." She
also stated that she has limited the time she spends with her
family and is attending church, which serves as a support
group for her. When asked why things would be different this
time than they had after the last time she had completed her
family services, Mother stated that she would be moving away
and that she would not have contact with Father.
acknowledged that the trial court had suspended her visits
with the boys in September 2016 but denied that she had done
anything to cause the visits to be suspended. She claimed
that the trial judge had told her that her visits had been
suspended because the judge was required to believe the
Department's caseworker and not her.
trial, the Department called caseworker D. Byrd to testify.
According to Byrd, Mother's visitations had been
suspended because she "would have very inappropriate
conversations with the boys during the visit." Mother
"talk[ed] about the case [with the boys], she would tell
them not to take their medicine because it was going to make
them zombies. She would tell them that myself and the ...