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In re G.T.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

December 28, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF G.T., A CHILD

         FROM THE 323RD DISTRICT COURT OF TARRANT COUNTY TRIAL COURT NO. 323-103614-16

          PANEL: SUDDERTH, C.J.; WALKER and GABRIEL, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION[1]

          SUE WALKER JUSTICE.

         I. Introduction

         This is an ultra-accelerated appeal[2] in which Appellant G.A.T. (Mother) appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child, G.A. following a bench trial.[3] One witness testified at the trial: Angelica Matthews, Mother's Department of Family and Protective Services caseworker. Mother raises three issues; the two dispositive issues that we address in this appeal are whether the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support the trial court's constructive abandonment and best-interest findings. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§161.001(b)(1)(N), (b)(2) (West 2014 & Supp. 2017). Because the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support these findings, we will affirm the trial court's judgment.

         II. The Termination Trial

         A. Testimony of Angelica Matthews

         The Department's conservatorship worker, Angelica Matthews, testified that she was Mother's caseworker when Mother, a minor, came into the Department's care in March or April of 2016, and that Mother was pregnant at the time. Mother was involved in prostitution prior to entering the Department's care. Mother subsequently ran away from the Department's care. Matthews testified that Mother has a history and pattern of running away from the Department's care.

         Eventually, Matthews received a telephone call from the hospital, informing her that Mother was in the hospital and had just given birth to G.A. Matthews said that at this time the Department took G.A. into care because the Department feared that Mother would run away with G.A. Matthews was also the caseworker assigned to G.A.'s case. At the hospital, Matthews visited with Mother and discussed a plan to help Mother provide a safe, stable home for G.A.

         About a week and a half after G.A. was born, Matthews presented and reviewed a service plan with Mother. The service plan called for Mother to take parenting classes, attend counseling, return to school, remain in the Department's care and not run, maintain contact and a relationship with G.A., and maintain contact with Matthews as the caseworker. Matthews said the Department wanted Mother to do some counseling to try to bridge some of the broken ties between Mother and her family because Mother would need support from her family for herself and G.A. to remain in care, go back to school, and not run. Around this time, Mother admitted to Matthews that to pay her rent, she had been prostituting herself.

         Ms. Matthews testified that the plan went well for approximately the first two weeks but then Mother ran away from care. The Department located Mother at a paternal cousin's home and placed her in a shelter, but Mother ran away a few hours later. Ms. Matthews testified at the trial on July 17, 2017, that she has not had face-to-face contact with Mother since that date, which was in August 2016.

         Although between August 30, 2016, and April 26, 2017, Ms. Matthews contacted Mother via text messages, e-mails, and phone calls and encouraged Mother to return to care so that she could see G.A., Mother refused to return to care and did not see G.A. during this approximately eight-month time period. Ms. Matthews testified that she attempted to locate Mother, and was concerned that Mother was not in a safe environment.

         According to Ms. Matthews, she had witnessed no bond between Mother and G.A., Mother had demonstrated an inability to provide a stable, safe living environment for G.A., and Mother had a lifestyle that would ultimately expose G.A. to dangerous situations.

         Ms. Matthews further testified that G.A.'s foster parents had developed a bond with G.A.; that they were able to meet G.A.'s emotional, physical, educational, medical, and financial needs; and that they made sure G.A. went to all of her medical appointments.

         Ms. Matthews testified that it was in the G.A.'s best interests for the parental rights of Mother and the unknown father to be terminated.

         B. Report from Attorney Ad Litem for G.A.

         The attorney ad litem for G.A. offered her report as a trial exhibit. The report detailed the ad litem's meetings with G.A. and the foster parents. The report stated that G.A. thrived in the foster home, was sleeping better, trying solid foods, pulling herself up, and attempting to take steps and say words. The report noted that the foster parents demonstrated that G.A.'s care and well-being is their priority, and that G.A. is attached to the foster parents and the foster parents are attached to G.A. The report concluded that it is in G.A.'s best interest to have Mother's parental rights terminated and to allow the foster parents to be permitted to pursue adoption.

         C. No Documentary Evidence or Testimony from Mother

         Mother presented no documentary evidence or testimony at the trial.

         D. Trial ...


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