Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
the 57th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2016PA02285 Honorable Richard Garcia, Judge
Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Marialyn Barnard,
Justice Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice
Marialyn Barnard, Justice
an accelerated appeal from the trial court's order
terminating appellant mother's ("Mother")
parental rights to her child, S.A. On appeal, Mother does not
contest the grounds upon which termination was granted.
Rather, she contends only that the evidence is legally and
factually insufficient to support the trial court's
finding that termination was in the child's best
interest. We affirm the trial court's order of
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("the
Department") became involved with the family after the
hospital contacted the Department to advise that S.A. was
amphetamine-addicted at birth. Soon after the birth, the
Department placed the infant with a paternal aunt and uncle.
The Department filed a petition to terminate Mother's
parental rights.During the case, the Department created a
service plan for Mother, which she signed in March 2017.
Under the service plan, Mother was required to: (1) enroll in
a family violence course for victims; (2) submit to a
psychosocial assessment and meet with a therapist to discuss
her issues, particularly her drug issues; (3) submit to
random drug testing - only negative results entitled Mother
to visitation with S.A.; (4) participate in a substance abuse
program; and (5) complete parenting classes. According to the
Department caseworker, Crystal Jones, the most important
items on Mother's plan were completion of a substance
abuse treatment program and domestic violence classes. The
trial court ordered Mother to comply with each requirement
set out in the plan. Once the Department determined
reunification, the initial goal, was not possible, the matter
moved to a final hearing, during which the Department
presented evidence in support of terminating Mother's
hearing, the trial court heard testimony from Department
caseworker Jones, the child's paternal aunt - J.G., and
Mother. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court
terminated Mother's rights. Thereafter, the trial court
rendered a written order of termination finding that Mother:
(1) engaged in conduct or knowingly placed S.A. with persons
who engaged in conduct that endangered S.A.'s physical or
emotional well-being; (2) constructively abandoned S.A.; (3)
failed to comply with the provisions of a court order that
specifically established the actions necessary for her to
obtain the return of S.A.; and (4) used a controlled
substance in a manner that endangered the health or safety of
S.A. and failed to complete a court-ordered substance abuse
program. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
161.001(b)(1)(E), (N), (O), (P) (West Supp. 2017). The trial
court further found termination of Mother's parental
rights would be in S.A.'s best interest. See id.
§ 161.001(b)(2). Mother timely perfected this appeal.
noted above, on appeal, Mother does not challenge the
evidence with regard to the trial court's findings under
section 161.001(b)(1) of the Texas Family Code ("the
Code"). See id. § 161.001(b)(1)(E), (N),
(O), (P). Rather, she merely challenges the legal and factual
sufficiency of the evidence in support of the trial
court's finding that termination was in the best interest
of the child. See id. § 161.001(b)(2).
parent's right to her child may be terminated by a court
only if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that
the parent committed an act prohibited by section
161.001(b)(1) of the Code and termination is in the best
interest of her child. Id. § 161.001(b).
"Clear and convincing evidence" is defined as
"proof that will produce in the mind of the trier of
fact a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the
allegations sought to be established." Id.
§ 101.007. Courts require this heightened standard of
review because termination of a parent's rights to her
child results in permanent and severe changes for both the
parent and child, thus, implicating due process concerns.
In re A.B., 437 S.W.3d 498, 502 (Tex. 2015). When
reviewing the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence,
we apply the well-established standards of review.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 101.007,
161.206(a); In re J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d 570, 573 (Tex.
2005) (legal sufficiency); In re H.R.M., 209 S.W.3d
105, 108 (Tex. 2006) (factual sufficiency). In sum, an
appellate court must determine whether the evidence is such
that the trier of fact could reasonably form a firm belief or
conviction that determination was in the child's best
interest. In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 263 (Tex.
2002). In conducting a sufficiency review, we may not weigh a
witness's credibility because it depends on appearance
and demeanor, and these are within the domain of the trier of
fact. J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d at 573. Even when such
issues are found in the appellate record, we must defer to
the fact finder's reasonable resolutions. Id.
Interests - Substantive Law
best interest analysis, we apply the non-exhaustive
Holley factors. See Holley v. Adams, 544
S.W.2d 367, 371-72 (Tex. 1976). We recognize there is a
strong presumption that keeping a child with a parent is in
the child's best interest. In re R.R., 209
S.W.3d 112, 116 (Tex. 2006). However, promptly and
permanently placing a child in a safe environment is also
presumed to be in the child's best interest. Tex. Fam.
Code Ann. § 263.307(a). Thus, to determine whether a
child's parent is willing and able to provide the child
with a safe environment, we also consider the factors set
forth in section 263.307(b) of the Code. Id.
evidence that proves one or more statutory grounds for
termination may be probative to prove termination is in the
child's best interest. In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17,
28 (Tex. 2012) (holding same evidence may be probative of
both section 161.001(1) grounds and best interest, but such
evidence does not relieve State of burden to prove best
interest). In conducting a best interest analysis, a court
may consider in addition to direct evidence, circumstantial
evidence, subjective factors, and the totality of the
evidence. In re E.D., 419 S.W.3d 615, 620 (Tex.
App.-San Antonio 2013, pet. denied). Finally, a ...