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In re E.E.L.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

January 3, 2018


         From the 45th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016-PA-02394 Honorable Charles E. Montemayor, Judge Presiding.

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice, Marialyn Barnard, Justice, Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice.



         E.L., the father of E.E.L., appeals the trial court's order terminating his parental rights. E.L. challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support both the trial court's predicate statutory findings and the trial court's finding that termination of E.L.'s parental rights was in E.E.L.'s best interest. We affirm the trial court's order.


         On October 25, 2016, the Department filed its petition to terminate E.L.'s parental rights. At that time, E.E.L. was three weeks old. A bench trial was held on August 3, 2017. On the date of the trial, E.E.L. was nine months old.

         The first witness to testify was the Department's legal worker. When E.E.L. was born, he and his mother tested positive for methamphetamines and amphetamines. E.E.L.'s mother denied using drugs. On one occasion when the legal worker visited E.E.L.'s mother about engaging in services, she had to speak with her outside because E.L. was yelling at the legal worker, using racial slurs and calling her vulgar, profane names. E.L. was incarcerated on April 16, 2017, for an assault charge. When the legal worker went to the home where E.L. and E.E.L.'s mother lived prior to E.L.'s incarceration, the home was boarded up.

         The legal worker testified a service plan was prepared for E.L. which she reviewed with him. E.L. had not completed the required parenting class, the drug assessment, or the individual counseling. The legal worker testified E.L. might have gone to one individual counseling appointment, but he did not complete the counseling requirement. Although E.L. was taking a domestic violence class as part of his probation when the plan was implemented, E.L. was discharged from the class based on his failure to attend. Initially, E.L. told the legal worker the domestic violence involved a different girl but later admitted the domestic violence was against E.E.L.'s mother. The legal worker testified E.L. could have engaged in his services from November of 2016 to April 2017, when he was incarcerated. The legal worker stated E.L. had plenty of time to start services before his incarceration and possibly even complete them. Although E.L. told the legal worker he was unable to engage in services while incarcerated, the legal worker testified some incarcerated parents have been able to engage in services.

         The legal worker testified E.L. tested positive for marijuana at the last hearing he attended, but E.L. denied using marijuana. Instead, E.L. told the legal worker he tested positive because his family uses marijuana. E.L. had not engaged in the required drug assessment; therefore, the legal worker was uncertain whether E.L. could provide E.E.L. with a drug-free home. The legal worker admitted she only sent E.L. for one drug test while the case was pending; however, she stated she had to be able to make contact with E.L. in order to complete the service authorizations for testing. In addition, the legal worker testified if E.L. had undertaken the required drug assessment, he would have been given random drug tests.

         The legal worker testified E.L. had not demonstrated an appropriate parent/child bond with E.E.L. because he failed to consistently visit him. E.L. only attended fifteen of the thirty-seven visits scheduled with E.E.L. The legal worker did not believe E.E.L. knew E.L. was his father. E.L.'s last visit with E.E.L. was in March.

         Although E.L. was employed at two jobs prior to his incarceration, E.L. was not employed at the time of trial because he was incarcerated; therefore, he was unable to financially support E.E.L. or provide him with a stable residence. E.L. told the legal worker he planned to move into his mother's house upon his release from jail in approximately three weeks. The legal worker testified his mother's home was studied, but the study was denied based on a concern about protective ability, including E.L.'s mother having a drug conviction that was a few years old.

         The Department's plan was for E.E.L. to be adopted by the foster parents who have cared for him since shortly after his birth. The legal worker testified E.E.L. is bonded with his foster parents who have demonstrated the ability to provide E.E.L. with a drug-free, domestic-violence-free home. The legal worker stated the foster parents are equipped to deal with any complications E.E.L. may suffer from being born drug addicted.

         E.L. testified he engaged in services and visited E.E.L. as much as he could while working two jobs. E.L. stated he would be released from jail in three weeks and wanted time to complete his service plan.

         On cross-examination, E.L. admitted that in 2015, he was charged with assault of a family member impeding breathing or circulation. E.L. also admitted that from 1996 until the present he consistently had problems with the law. E.L. ...

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