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In re A.L.B.

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

December 21, 2017


         On Appeal from the 315th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2015-02581J

          Panel consists of Justices Keyes, Brown, and Lloyd.



         In this parental rights termination case, appellant A.B. (Mother) challenges the trial court's final decree terminating her parental rights to two of her children, A.L.B. and A.M.B. In her sole issue, she argues that the evidence was factually insufficient to support the trial court's finding that termination of her parental rights was in the children's best interest.

         We affirm.


         Mother has three children who are relevant to this suit: A.A.B, A.L.B., and A.M.B. A.A.B was born in January 2009 and tested positive at birth for cocaine. The family was referred to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), and DFPS's files indicate that Mother was not cooperative and tried to prevent the hospital staff from taking blood samples. DFPS referred the family to family-based safety services in February 2009, but by September 2009 it determined that Mother had made minimal progress in completing her court-ordered services. The records indicated that the family had moved five times during the open case and the relationship between Mother and L.P.B. (Father) was likewise unstable. DFPS then sought termination of Mother's parental rights to A.A.B., which was granted on August 18, 2010, on the grounds of Mother's endangering conduct, pursuant to Family Code section 161.001(b)(1)(D) and (E).[1]A.A.B. was eventually adopted by Father's aunt (Aunt).

         Mother and Father remained in a relationship and continued to move. A.L.B. was born in August 2010 in Denver, Colorado, and A.M.B. was born in November 2011 in Houston. Also in November 2011, DFPS received another referral of neglectful supervision and physical abuse by Mother against A.L.B., but it could not complete an investigation because the family could not be located and DFPS had reason to believe that they had moved to Wisconsin.

         A.L.B. and A.M.B. first came into DFPS care in April 2015, when they were four and three years old, respectively, following new reports of neglectful supervision against both Mother and Father. Police had responded to two disturbance calls and observed "deplorable" conditions in the motel room where the family was living at the time. According to the reports cited in the Children's Crisis Care Center's assessment, [2] the police and DFPS investigator observed "drug paraphernalia, rotting food and feces in the toilet." The DFPS investigator also observed "clothes piled halfway up the wall near the bathroom, several empty beer bottles, several packages of Cigarillo cigars and cigar butts on a table, " and "[r]otting food . . . in the refrigerator." The children told one of the police officers that "mommy and daddy smoke weed in the bathroom, " and the children also made statements to police indicating that they had witnessed their parents engage in domestic violence. The children reported to the DFPS investigator that they observed a physical altercation between their parents that started when Mother hit Father, and A.L.B. "stated mommy punched daddy in the face and that is why his lip is bleeding." The police also reported that when Mother was handcuffed and placed in the patrol car, she was "out of control and trying to kick the window of [the] patrol car."

         The DFPS investigator spoke with both parents. Father informed the investigator that Mother is bipolar but does not take her medications and that she was physically abusive toward him. Mother told the investigator that her only criminal history was petty theft and that she had no CPS history, specifically denying that she had had an older daughter removed from her care. Mother denied having a mental illness, and she denied drug use. Mother also "started yelling that there is no domestic violence in the relationship and she doesn't hit [Father]." At one point she told the investigator that Father "hit himself on the side of the head, " and Mother also "got upset and started yelling that she doesn't beat her kids but will pop them on the butt if they are getting on her nerves."

         Mother was arrested at that time for public intoxication. Father was arrested based on outstanding warrants, and the children were removed and placed in Aunt's home, with A.A.B., where they remained from April 2015 until September 2016. Due to allegations of abuse, A.L.B. and A.M.B. were later removed from that home and placed in a foster home, and Aunt's family went through family-based safety services.

         Evidence also admitted at trial included the decree of termination of Mother's parental rights to A.A.B. pursuant to Family Code sections 161.001(b)(1)(D) and (E) and Mother's family service plan for the case involving A.L.B. and A.M.B. DFPS also presented the results of drug tests showing that Mother's hair specimen tested positive for cocaine on September 28, 2015, February 8, 2016, and June 16, 2016, but she had negative urine tests on those same dates. Furthermore, the caseworker, Randie Carlson, testified that Mother was required to take monthly drug screenings but only appeared at two of the seventeen screenings that DFPS had requested. Carlson testified that two of the drug tests Mother missed were during a time when Mother was in the hospital following a severe accident. The other missed drug tests occurred after Mother had been released from the hospital and after the trial court had ordered that DFPS provide Mother with transportation to take the drug tests, but Mother refused to participate in the testing.

         The record also contained a judgment demonstrating that Mother had been convicted of theft in 2014 and was sentenced to eight days in the county jail; a judgment demonstrating her conviction for misdemeanor evading arrest from April 28, 2015, and a sentence of thirty days' confinement in the county jail; a judgment demonstrating a conviction for misdemeanor prostitution on July 24, 2015, and a sentence of eight days' confinement; and a conviction for misdemeanor criminal trespass on February 15, 2016, and a sentence of five days' confinement.

         Carlson testified regarding Mother's history with CPS. She testified that Mother's parental rights to A.A.B. were terminated, and she testified that Mother had not completed her family service plan with regard to the case involving A.L.B. and A.M.B. According to Carlson, Mother had failed to maintain a stable living situation, had failed to adequately address her mental health issues, and had failed to demonstrate that she had quit abusing drugs. Carlson also addressed Mother's living situation at the time of trial. Mother was no longer in a relationship with Father. She received $300 per month in social security benefits and she also had some Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Carlson testified that she was not aware of any plans that Mother had regarding how she would support the children.

         Carlson further testified that Mother had not maintained stable housing. Mother was in an accident that resulted in hospitalization in December 2015 through January 2016 and in paralysis of her arm and damage to her legs. Upon her release from the hospital, Mother stayed at the Star of Hope shelter throughout the spring of 2016. In August 2016, Carlson visited Mother at the address that Mother had reported as her new home address. Carlson determined that the location was an emergency shelter and testified that the home was unsuitable for the children. She stated that the refrigerator had a chain around it, and when she asked why, Mother reported that "random people would come in and take her food." Carlson also stated that the floors and walls had holes in them, there were "only two lights that work[ed] throughout the whole house, " and the "toilet was backing up, so there [were] feces on floor and on the toilet." Carlson also testified that there were "random people" living there and "somebody else's medications" were out on top of Mother's dresser.

         In October 2016, Mother presented Carlson with a lease to an apartment in North Houston that she was leasing with her current boyfriend, J.W. However, by the time trial proceedings concluded in May 2017, Carlson had attempted to verify Mother's apartment lease and was unable to do so. Carlson stated that the leasing office allowed her to examine ...

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