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In re V. A.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo

February 27, 2018


          On Appeal from the 84th District Court Ochiltree County, Texas Trial Court No. 14, 272, Honorable Curt Brancheau, Presiding

          Before QUINN, C.J., and CAMPBELL and PARKER, JJ.


          Judy C. Parker Justice

         Following a bench trial, the trial court signed a judgment terminating the parent-child relationship between A.A. (Mother) and her five children, V.A., S.A., S.A., A.A., and I.A.[1] Raising five issues, A.A. contends that the evidence was not legally or factually sufficient to support termination of her parental rights. We affirm.

          Factual and Procedural Background

         The trial court terminated A.A.'s and S.A.'s[2] parental rights on the grounds of endangering conditions, endangerment, failure to comply with court ordered services, and continued use of a controlled substance after completion of a treatment program. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (O), and (P) (West Supp. 2017).[3] The trial court also found that termination was in the children's best interest. See § 161.001(b)(2).

         The Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (Department) initially became involved on October 2, 2015, when A.A.'s fourth child, A.A., tested positive for methamphetamine at birth. A.A. admitted to using methamphetamine approximately twenty times leading up to the birth of A.A. Hair strand drug tests of A.A. and S.A. confirmed the use of methamphetamine. The Department referred the case to the Family Based Safety Services Division (FBSS) to allow the parents to address concerns that resulted from the investigation.

         A.A. completed an Outreach, Screening, Assessment, and Referral (OSAR) at the request of the Department. The assessment recommended she complete inpatient drug treatment. A.A. completed inpatient drug treatment on May 16, 2016. On October 25, 2016, A.A. tested positive for methamphetamine. The level of methamphetamine was "extremely" high and "appeared to indicate daily use." A.A. completed a second inpatient drug treatment on May 30, 2017, but failed to submit to drug testing after that date as requested by the Department.

         A.A. and S.A.'s case was transferred to the Department's conservatorship unit because of the lack of progress on family-based services. The Department was named the temporary managing conservator of the oldest four children on November 17, 2016, and of newborn I.A. one month later, after I.A. tested positive for methamphetamine at birth.

         The Department developed a family service plan for A.A. and S.A. A.A. did not complete services required by the plan. Specifically, A.A. failed to: complete a psychological evaluation; attend parenting classes; submit to random drug testing; provide proof of attending Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous classes; and obtain safe and stable housing or employment.

         The children are placed with their maternal grandmother who plans to adopt them. She has the support of two adult children in the home and extended family. The children are doing well in this placement.

         Applicable Law

         A parent's rights to the "companionship, care, custody[, ] and management" of a child is a constitutional interest "far more precious than any property right." Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 758-59, 102 S.Ct. 1388, 71 L.Ed.2d 599 (1982); see In re M.S., 115 S.W.3d 534, 547 (Tex. 2003). Consequently, we strictly scrutinize termination proceedings and strictly construe the involuntary termination statutes in favor of the parent. Holick v. Smith, 685 S.W.2d 18, 20 (Tex. 1985). However, "the rights of natural parents are not absolute" and "[t]he rights of parenthood are accorded only to those fit to accept the accompanying responsibilities." In re A.V., 113 S.W.3d 355, 361 (Tex. 2003) (citing In re J.W.T., 872 S.W.2d 189, 195 (Tex. 1993)). Recognizing that a parent may forfeit his or her parental rights by his or her acts or omissions, the primary focus of a termination suit is protection of the child's best interests. See id.

         In a case to terminate parental rights by the Department under section 161.001 of the Family Code, the Department must establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that (1) the parent committed one or more of the enumerated acts or omissions justifying termination, and (2) termination is in the best interest of the child. § 161.001(b). Clear and convincing evidence is "the measure or degree of 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." § 101.007 (West 2014); In re J.F.C.,96 S.W.3d 256, 264 (Tex. 2002). Both elements must be established and termination may not be based solely on the best interest of the children as determined by the trier of fact. Tex. Dep't of Human Servs. v. Boyd, 727 S.W.2d 531, 533 (Tex. 1987); In re K.C.B.,280 S.W.3d 888, 894 (Tex. App.- Amarillo 2009, pet. denied). "Only one predicate finding under section 161.001[(b)](1) is necessary to support a judgment of termination when there is also a finding that termination is in the child's best interest." In re A.V., 113 S.W.3d at 362. We will affirm the termination order ...

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