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In re C.H.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

January 17, 2018


         On Appeal from the 304th Judicial District Court Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 15-01296-W

          Before Justices Bridges, Fillmore, and Stoddart



         Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her daughter C.H. In three issues, Mother argues the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to prove termination of her parental rights is in C.H.'s best interest or to support the appointment of Dallas County Child Protective Services (CPS) as managing conservator for C.H. We affirm the trial court's termination of Mother's parental rights.

         On December 14, 2015, CPS filed an original petition for protection of a child, for conservatorship, and for termination in suit affecting the parent child relationship. The petition alleged, among other things, that Mother knowingly placed or knowingly allowed C.H. to remain in conditions or surroundings which endangered her physical or emotional well-being; engaged in conduct or knowingly placed C.H. with persons who engaged in conduct which endangered the physical or emotional well-being of C.H.; and constructively abandoned C.H., who had been in the temporary managing conservatorship of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services for not less than six months, and (1) the Department made reasonable efforts to return C.H. to Mother, (2) Mother did not regularly visit or maintain significant contact with C.H., and (3) Mother demonstrated an inability to provide C.H. with a safe environment.

         The petition was supported by the affidavit of CPS caseworker Heather Sanchez who stated that, on December 11, 2015, C.H.'s paternal grandmother came into the CPS office and stated that she no longer wished to care for C.H. and wanted to surrender her to CPS. Sanchez interviewed the paternal grandmother, who stated she was unable to care for C.H. Paternal grandmother stated Mother and Father were living in Memphis, and Mother's other three-year-old daughter, A.C. was living with the maternal grandmother. Paternal grandmother reported that Mother was "prostituting" and using cocaine and marijuana. Paternal grandmother admitted that she occasionally smoked marijuana. At some point in the interview, paternal grandmother changed her mind and stated that she would like to keep C.H. and did not want her to go into foster care. Paternal grandmother gave Sanchez the address of the hotel where Mother was staying.

         That same day, Sanchez and another investigator went to the hotel and spoke with Mother and Father. Sanchez told Mother that paternal grandmother brought C.H. to the CPS office and stated she was unable to care for C.H. but later changed her mind and wanted to care for C.H. Sanchez said an investigation was opened and they needed to find a suitable place for C.H. to stay. Mother stated she would like to have C.H., but she did not feel she would be able to care for C.H. When Mother made the statement, Father nodded his head.

         Mother stated she was previously arrested for theft of property, and she was on probation until 2017. When asked if she had previously been involved with CPS, Mother stated a case with the Department of Human Services in Memphis was opened because she had an unstable living environment. However, nothing happened with the case because A.C. had been living with Mother's mother at the time. Mother said she did not work but received a monthly check from social security. Mother admitted participating in prostitution for the last six or seven months, using cocaine three months ago, and using marijuana three days ago.

         When asked why C.H. had gone to live with the paternal grandmother, Mother stated there was an agreement worked out whereby Father would move to Texas to live with the paternal grandmother and C.H. and get his life together. The paternal grandmother agreed to keep C.H. until April. By that time, Mother was supposed to get a job and a place to live. Mother stated she believed that the paternal grandmother became angry when she learned that Mother had come to Texas because she did not want Mother to have a relationship with Father. Mother stated she believed her coming to Texas led the paternal grandmother to take C.H. to CPS. After conferring with her supervisors, who advised Sanchez that it had been approved for C.H. to be removed into foster care, Sanchez returned to the hotel and informed Mother and Father of the removal.

         At a trial before the court in October 2016, Mother testified that, in December 2015, she had been in Dallas less than a month, and it was her first visit to Dallas. Mother had an arrangement with the paternal grandmother to keep C.H. for six months to give Mother "time to get . . . some stability, place to stay" in Memphis. Only Father and C.H. were to live with the paternal grandmother. C.H. had been living with the paternal grandmother since July 2015. Mother "didn't really want to take [C.H.] back" to Memphis; Mother "just wanted to see [C.H.]." When asked to describe the situation in Memphis between Mother and Father, Mother said she was "not stable, " and she was "using drugs" and Father was "being abusive."

         Mother was seventeen years old when she got pregnant with C.H. Mother testified she smoked marijuana before she got pregnant with C.H., stopped using drugs while she was pregnant, and began engaging in prostitution and using cocaine "about five months after" C.H. was born. C.H. was born in November 2014. After her birth, C.H. lived "back and forth between the paternal great grandmother" and Mother for the first six months of her life. C.H. then went to live with the paternal grandmother from July 2015 until the removal in December 2015. Mother did not see C.H. between July and December 2015.

         Mother had been diagnosed as bipolar and schizophrenic at the time of C.H.'s removal and received a social security check as a result. Mother testified she "over exaggerate[d] the situation to get the check." Mother's mother was also "on the check because she had previous mental problems." Social security "gave [Mother] the check instantly" because they knew her mother was "sick so her daughter probably had the same heredity." Mother testified she was not exhibiting any signs or symptoms of having mental health issues when she went for the evaluation to get diagnosed. Mother testified she lied for the specific purpose of obtaining a social security check. The checks were "ongoing" at the time of trial. Mother testified she was arrested for theft in Memphis and was on probation until 2017.

         Mother testified that, after the removal, she visited C.H. but returned to Memphis a week and a half later. Mother testified she did not have enough money to stay in Dallas because she "was already homeless in Memphis" and she was also on probation. After Mother returned to Memphis, she did not see C.H. until August 26, 2016. While in Memphis, Mother did not always have a phone, did not have a place to live, and continued to abuse drugs and engage in prostitution.

         Mother did not complete any of her services between January and June 2016, but she "did get stability." In June 2016, Mother's grandmother gave her a house and a job at one of her nursing homes, A.C. began staying with Mother, and Mother enrolled in a program to get her GED. Mother stopped engaging in prostitution. Mother was using drugs, including cocaine, "on and off" in June 2016 but she testified she had stopped using drugs by July. At the end of August 2016, Mother returned to Dallas, and her caseworker and her lawyer "set up as many services as [they] could, " including parenting classes, psychological evaluation, a drug ...

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