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In re I.G.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

January 17, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF I.G., a Child

         From the 73rd Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016-PA-01987 Honorable Charles E. Montemayor, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Marialyn Barnard, Justice Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Opinion by: Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

         Crystal [1] appeals the trial court's judgment terminating her parental rights to her daughter, I.G. (born in 2004). She argues the trial court erred by considering a published article that was not admitted into evidence and that insufficient evidence supports the trial court's findings on the statutory grounds to terminate her parental rights. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         In September 2016, the Department of Family and Protective Services removed I.G. based on a referral alleging Crystal is a drug addict and had instructed I.G. to shoplift to acquire items Crystal could sell to buy drugs. The Department filed a petition seeking conservatorship of I.G. and to terminate the parental rights of Crystal and I.G.'s father, Michael.

         In June 2017, the case proceeded to a jury trial at which Michael, Crystal, and the Department's caseworkers Cynthia Suarez and Ashley Braswell testified. Michael testified briefly; he stated he is incarcerated for capital murder, had not complied with court-ordered provisions of his family service plan, and is voluntarily relinquishing his parental rights.

         Crystal testified she is in jail for theft of a vehicle and possession of a controlled substance. She stated she was incarcerated in January 2017 and was released briefly before her bond was "pulled" for a failure to appear, and she returned to jail approximately a month before trial. Crystal also stated domestic violence occurred during her relationship with Michael, and although she had worked in the medical field to support her six children, she was unable to support I.G. while she was in jail. She also testified I.G. texted her during the case and said she had been cutting herself.

         Crystal also testified the Department had not provided her with a copy of her family service plan, but she was informed she "had to do counseling and parenting." She further testified she did not complete any services on her family service plan before she went to jail in January 2017. Crystal explained, "The caseworker I had wouldn't listen to anything I would say at the time. She didn't have any children, so I don't even know how she could relate to anything I was trying to tell her." Crystal stated that after she went to jail, she was able to complete only a parenting course.

         Suarez testified she explained to Crystal all of the family service plan requirements and Crystal seemed to understand those requirements. Suarez stated she informed Crystal of the requirements for drug and psychological assessments, drug testing, maintaining stable employment and housing, participating in individual counseling, and completing a domestic violence class. According to Suarez, Crystal satisfied none of those requirements during the several months before she was incarcerated. Suarez also testified she did not give Crystal a copy of her family service plan.

         Braswell testified she was the investigating caseworker assigned before the Department filed suit. She testified Crystal initially denied having a drug problem, but Crystal admitted she used heroin and morphine when Braswell confronted her with positive drug test results.

         After the parties rested and presented closing arguments, the trial court discussed the case history and the witnesses' testimony. Commenting on the testimony that I.G. was cutting herself, the trial court attributed I.G.'s stress to Crystal's conduct, stating:

Let me tell you what [P]sychology [T]oday says why adolescents cut. Cutting is a way some teen adolescents try to cope with the pain of strong emotions, intense pressure or upsetting relationship problems. They may be dealing with feelings that seem too difficult to bear or bad situations that they think they can't change. Some people cut because they feel desperate for relief from bad feelings. The trial court signed a final judgment, terminating Michael's parental rights. The trial court also terminated Crystal's rights, finding four grounds for termination and that termination of her parental rights is in I.G.'s best interest. Only Crystal appealed.

         Improper Consideration of ...


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