Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re D.S.J.

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

February 22, 2018


         On Appeal from the 313th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2016-03573J

          Panel consists of Justices Jennings, Massengale, and Caughey.


          Michael Massengale, Justice

         This appeal arises from a decree terminating the parental rights of a mother and a father to their biological child, D.S.J. The mother argues that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support the termination of her parental rights. Separately, the father argues that the evidence was factually insufficient to support the termination of his parental rights, and he additionally asserts that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support the appointment of the Department of Family and Protective services as D.S.J.'s sole managing conservator.

         Because the evidence was sufficient to support termination of parental rights of both parents, as well as the court's appointment of the Department as D.S.J.'s managing conservator, we affirm.


         D.S.J. was born five weeks early. She suffered from breathing problems, and she remained in the hospital's intensive care unit for ten days. At the time of her birth, D.S.J.'s mother and father were defending a suit in Chambers County which sought to terminate their parental rights with respect to another child, D.S.J.'s older sibling R.J. The mother and father both tested positive for drugs while that termination suit was pending, and they failed to complete their family service plans. Because of the pending termination case, upon her discharge from the hospital D.S.J. was immediately placed in a parental child safety placement with her maternal aunt, who also had custody of R.J. at that time. The Department took custody of D.S.J. approximately three weeks later, following allegations of sexual misconduct in the maternal aunt's home. D.S.J. was subsequently placed in a nonrelative foster home.

         The Department developed individually-tailored family service plans for D.S.J.'s mother and father. The trial court incorporated the plans by reference in a status-hearing order, making both plans orders of the court. Each plan listed several tasks and services to be completed by the parents in order for reunification with D.S.J. to occur. The plans also included a summary of a referral received by the Department which alleged neglectful supervision of D.S.J. by her mother and father. Each plan stated that it was intended to help the parent provide a safe environment for D.S.J. within a specified time, and that if the parent was unwilling or unable to provide that safe environment, parental and custodial duties and rights could be restricted or terminated, or the child might not be returned to the parent.

         The case proceeded to a bench trial. The caseworker for D.S.J.'s case and the caseworker for the Chambers County suit involving R.J. both testified. Both of D.S.J.'s parents and her foster mother testified. The Department offered 19 exhibits which were admitted into evidence. These included, among several other documents, both the mother's and father's family-service plans, a Children's Crisis Care Center Family Evaluation, results of drug tests for each parent, and documentation related to the father's criminal history.

         The Department called D.S.J.'s assigned Harris County caseworker as its first witness. The caseworker testified that the father had started his family-service plan, but he had not completed it. He did not follow most of the recommendations of his psychosocial assessment, including parenting classes, a battering intervention and prevention program, couples counseling, and trauma-informed counseling. Drug test results admitted into evidence confirmed that the father had tested positive for methamphetamine twice in the weeks leading up to D.S.J.'s birth. He also tested positive for alcohol, various benzodiazepines, marijuana, marijuana metabolites, amphetamine, and methamphetamine a month after D.S.J. was born. During his psychosocial assessment, the father admitted that he had been drinking excessively and using drugs the month after D.S.J. was born. Random drug testing throughout the case resulted in several positive results. He twice tested positive for cocaine within the six months before trial.

         The father had continued regular psychiatric care, and the caseworker believed he was taking his prescribed psychotropic medications. However, she was unsure if he had been prescribed medication for a seizure disorder, and she was concerned because the father had tried to commit suicide several times. She also was concerned about the father's criminal history.

         With respect to the mother, the caseworker testified that she had started her family-service plan, but she failed to follow the recommendations of her psychosocial assessment, several of which were services she already had been required to complete under her family-service plan. The mother did not complete domestic violence counseling, couples counseling, parenting classes, or individual therapy. She also failed to maintain stable employment for at least six months. The mother submitted to random drug testing throughout the case, and she did not test positive for any drugs. She had not tested positive for drugs since before D.S.J. was born, but she tested positive for synthetic marijuana three times after she already had become pregnant with the child. The caseworker testified that the mother's responses during her psychosocial assessment indicated that she knew she was pregnant at the time of the positive drug tests. D.S.J. tested positive for barbiturates at birth, and the caseworker confirmed that this was an indication that the mother "definitely" used illegal drugs while pregnant.

         Both parents failed to maintain a stable home environment for at least six months. The parents provided the caseworker with proof of housing three months before trial, and the caseworker testified that the father had a stable home environment and stable employment at the time of trial.

         The caseworker testified that D.S.J. was well-bonded in her foster home and the foster family was willing to adopt her. The mother and father had missed a number of visits with D.S.J. They visited once, two months after D.S.J. was born, and since then they had made only six two-hour visits. The caseworker explained that although D.S.J. is "severely delayed, " neither parent had ever asked the caseworker about the delays, or otherwise discussed them with her.

         Based on answers given in their individual psychosocial or psychological assessments, the caseworker testified that neither parent believed that his or her substance abuse had a negative impact on his or her parenting abilities. It was the Department's conclusion that both parents had problems with judgment and with the ability to be protective of their children. The caseworker believed that termination of both parents' parental rights would be in the child's best interest because, while living with her foster parents, D.S.J. was receiving the care necessary to address her developmental delays, and she was not being subjected to other "CPS involvement" or potential drug abuse.

         The caseworker for the Chambers County conservatorship case also testified. The mother had a history of using illegal drugs while pregnant, and R.J. was removed from the parents due to "parental drug use and domestic violence issues." The Chambers County caseworker testified that there also was an ongoing investigation in another county related to the mother's three older children. Family-service plans had been ordered for each parent in the Chambers County case, but neither parent had completed his or her plan. The parents' visits with R.J. had not been consistent throughout the case. Based on her observation of one visit, the Chambers County caseworker believed neither the mother nor the father was able to "parent" R.J. The parents had not demonstrated any pattern of stability while the Chambers County case was pending, and the Department's goal in that case was termination of parental rights and adoption. R.J.'s foster home and D.S.J.'s foster home maintained communication with each other, and the two children were able to have "siblings' visits." The Chambers County caseworker testified that she had no reason to believe that this would change in the future.

         The Department also called the father to testify. His two children not involved in the pending cases lived with his grandmother, and he did not have any parental or visitation rights to them. He was incarcerated at the time his rights to those children were terminated.

         The father admitted that he had been arrested for a drug possession offense less than two months before D.S.J. was born, and that he had gone to jail as a result. He claimed, however, that the drugs belonged to someone else. He also admitted that he previously had been convicted on two separate occasions of assaulting the mother of his other two children, B.C. He stated that those incidents occurred while he was "coming out of a seizure, " and he "didn't know what was going on" at the time. He also had been convicted of assaulting B.C.'s friend (by punching him in the face), and he had been convicted twice of assaulting her mother. Although complaints related to the father's assaults of B.C.'s mother indicated he had "[struck] her with his hand, " and "[pushed her] with his fist, " the father testified that he was arrested for spitting on her.

         The father stated that he started using drugs at 13 years old. He admitted that he had used drugs while his children, including D.S.J., were in the Department's care. He did not know why he continued to use drugs when he knew he would have to submit to drug tests in this case and in the Chambers County case. He told his psychological assessor that he used drugs only during "daddy time, " while his children were sleeping. The father testified that he and the mother did not use drugs at the same time, so if one of the children needed medical care during "daddy time, " the mother would be able to help. The father agreed that his drug use was not safe for his children, however he stated that he was done with drugs. Although he had tested positive for cocaine within the six months preceding trial, he stated that he did not know why the test was positive because he had not used drugs since sometime the year before. He said his children are more important to him than drugs, and he would rather have "family time" than "daddy time."

         The father also discussed his mental-health issues. He first attempted suicide as a teenager, and his last attempt was shortly after D.S.J. was born. He agreed that D.S.J.'s mother had saved his life after his last suicide attempt. By the time of trial, he had been seeing a mental-health service provider regularly for approximately 11 months, and his last visit was two days before he testified. The father testified that he took his prescribed medications every day.

         In addition to continuing regular psychiatric care, the father stated that he also had started a battering intervention and prevention program, and he would be done by the end of the month. He and the mother stayed in hotels and with friends when the case started, but they had been living in a house for approximately four to five months prior to trial. They "pretty much" had a month-to-month lease, and the father paid the bills every month. He stated that there was no threat of being evicted from that residence. The roof needed to be repaired, but he had repaired other areas of the house, and he continued making repairs to the house. The father further testified that he had been working for ten months as a maintenance supervisor at hotel, and he earned a monthly income of $1, 600.

         When asked to describe D.S.J.'s developmental needs, the father stated that the child was able to stand up, lift herself up, crawl, and hold a bottle to feed herself. He further testified that he had raised one of his other daughters while she was approximately the same age as D.S.J., and that his other daughter "didn't really do that much either."

         D.S.J.'s mother also testified. She had three older daughters who had lived with her mother for approximately three years because she had been unable to care for them. She agreed that she also had been unable to take care of D.S.J. or R.J. However, at the time of trial, the three older ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.