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In re J.J.S.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

February 28, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF J.J.S., E.F.S., and X.C.M.S., Children

         From the 288th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016-PA-02857 Honorable John D. Gabriel, Jr., Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice, Marialyn Barnard, Justice, Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice

         Appellant A.M. (mother) and appellant J.S. (father) appeal the trial court's order terminating their parental rights to their children J.J.S., E.F.S., and X.C.M.S. A.M. challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's predicate statutory findings, and both A.M. and J.S. challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's finding that termination was in the children's best interest. We affirm the trial court's order.

         Background

         On December 22, 2016, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services filed a petition to terminate A.M.'s and J.S.'s parental rights to J.J.S. and E.F.S. On the date the petition was filed, J.J.S. was almost two, and E.F.S. was almost one. On March 16, 2017, the Department filed an amended petition also seeking to terminate A.M.'s and J.S.'s parental rights to X.C.M.S., who was born on March 1, 2017. A bench trial was held on October 30, 2017.

         The Department's caseworker, who had been assigned the case since its inception, testified the children were placed in a kinship home with maternal cousins and were doing very well. The caseworker stated A.M. did not receive any prenatal care while pregnant with X.C.M.S., and X.C.M.S. was born prematurely. X.C.M.S.'s medical issues arising from his premature birth, however, were being addressed. The children were removed from their parents' care based on allegations that the parents were dealing drugs out of the home with the children present, the children were being left unattended, and the parents were constantly under the influence of drugs while the children were in the parents' care. When the Department contacted the parents, J.S. admitted using synthetic marijuana, and A.M. admitting using amphetamines.

         The caseworker also testified she could only obtain drug tests when the parents appeared in court because they did not otherwise appear for scheduled drug tests. A.M.'s test results were positive. The only service plan requirement A.M. completed was the psychological evaluation. She did not complete the drug and alcohol assessment, parenting classes, or individual therapy. She also did not have stable employment or housing. J.S. completed a parenting class and the psychological evaluation; however, he did not complete the drug and alcohol assessment or individual therapy. He also failed to provide proof of employment or stable housing. Neither parent paid any of their court-ordered child support or otherwise provided tangible support for the children.

         The caseworker further testified J.S. was scheduled to have a one-hour visit with the children each week, and J.S. attended maybe twenty-five percent of the scheduled visits. The parents only had four visits with the children in the four months preceding trial, and A.M. was present for only portions of those visits. Since June of 2017, the caseworker estimated A.M. and J.S. had visited with the children for two hours and five hours, respectively. The caseworker testified the parents' visits with the children were inappropriate because A.M. and J.S. would cuss at each other in front of the children. The children did not ask about their parents and are bonded with their caregivers. The Department's long-term plan is for the children to be adopted by their current caregivers. The caseworker stated termination of the parents' rights was in the children's best interest.

         A.M. testified she was living with her sister but admitted the house was not appropriate for the children because it only had one bedroom. A.M. planned to support the children by working but admitted her current employment was "on and off right now."

         J.S. testified he had been working for a tree service "[o]ff and on for about a month" and worked about eighteen to nineteen hours a week. He did not complete the drug and alcohol assessment due to scheduling difficulties but stated he completed some of the classes required by his service plan while he was incarcerated. J.S. had been living with his mother in her one-bedroom apartment for about two weeks. Before that, he was homeless. J.S. testified he could not attend all of the visits with the children due to transportation issues. On cross-examination, J.S. testified he would not be surprised if his mother said he did not live with her. Although the tree service company also reported J.S. was not working there, J.S. explained the person at the company knows him by a different name.

         The children's ad litem testified the children are doing great with their placement and are very bonded with the family. The children believe the placement is their forever home.

         After hearing the evidence, the trial court terminated A.M.'s and J.S.'s parental rights. A.M. and J.S. appeal.

         Standard of Review and ...


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