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In re A.C.H.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

April 25, 2018

In the Interest of A.C.H., a Child

          From the 225th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016-PA-00808 Honorable Charles E. Montemayor, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Karen Angelini, Justice Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice Irene Rios, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          IRENE RIOS, JUSTICE

         AFFIRMED

         This is an accelerated appeal from an order terminating Father's parental rights to his child, A.C.H.[1] Father contends the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the trial court's findings regarding the three statutory grounds for termination and its finding that termination of Father's parental rights is in the child's best interest. We affirm the trial court's order terminating Father's parental rights.

         Background

         On April 13, 2016, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("Department") received a referral alleging Mother was medically neglecting A.C.H. and his half- brother, A.K.H. Specifically, the referral alleged Mother was giving the children Benadryl without a doctor's approval, that Mother did not seek medical care for A.C.H. when he was having difficulty breathing, and that Mother's paramour, who had been charged with sexual assault of a minor, was living with her and the children. That same day, a Department investigator contacted Mother, the paramour, and Mother's father. On April 18, 2016, Mother contacted the investigator stating she could no longer care for the children and that she was experiencing heroin withdrawal symptoms. On April 19, 2016, the Department filed a petition to terminate Mother's parental rights to the two children. Following an adversary hearing on May 2, 2016, the trial court signed a temporary order assigning the Department as temporary managing conservator of the children. On June 14, 2016, the Department filed an amended petition naming Father as a party to the suit and requesting termination of his parental rights to A.C.H. On June 16, 2016, Father signed the Department's service plan that listed the tasks Father was required to complete in order to achieve reunification with A.C.H. On June 21, 2016, the trial court found Father had reviewed and signed the Department's service plan and ordered that Father comply with and complete the service plan. On April 19, 2017, the children's foster parents filed a petition in intervention, requesting the court appoint them conservators of the children.

         At the non-jury trial held on October 10, 2017, the trial court heard testimony from San Antonio Police Department Detective Robert Dart; Scott Siegel, Father's assigned therapist; Father; G.C., the foster mother of A.C.H and A.K.H.; and Department caseworker Kristin Torres.

         Detective Dart testified he met Father in the course of investigating a shooting that occurred on January 1, 2017. In that incident, an individual walked out of a convenience store, entered the passenger side of a vehicle, and shot a gun in the direction of the store from the passenger window of the vehicle as the vehicle drove away from the store. Detective Dart explained Father went to the police station to give a voluntary interview, during which Father admitted he was the person who shot at the convenience store. According to Detective Dart, Father explained he shot at the convenience store because he had a confrontation with an individual inside the store and was afraid the individual was coming after him. However, Detective Dart opined Father did not have a valid claim of self-defense because video footage from the store's security camera showed Father shot from a vehicle that was leaving the store, and therefore was "in no danger whatsoever." Detective Dart testified Father's action in shooting at the store was dangerous and could have caused someone serious bodily injury.

         Siegel, Father's therapist, testified Father regularly attended therapy sessions from July 2016 to January 2017, when allegations arose Father was involved in a convenience store shooting. Siegel testified he had not seen Father since January 2017, and that the criminal allegations against Father caused him concern regarding Father's decision-making ability. Siegel explained that during the time Father regularly attended therapy sessions, Father was "doing great, " made "tons of progress, " and was meeting his goals of improving his decision-making ability and parenting skills and being a better father. However, after the criminal allegations arose, "things just kind of fell apart." With regard to the shooting allegation, Siegel remarked that, if true, it "[was] an incredibly poor decision and lack[ed] impulse control . . . [a]nd I would be concerned for other decisions that he would make if the allegations were true." Siegel related that because Father failed to continue attending therapy sessions after the January 1 incident, Father was not positively discharged from therapy.

         Father testified he has worked full-time as a painter for four years and earns $17 an hour. Father testified he has lived in his current home with his wife and their two children for six or seven months, and that his previous residence was where he had lived his entire life. Father related that his other two children are two months old and fourteen months old. Father testified that before the Department removed A.C.H. and A.K.H. from Mother's home, Mother would bring A.C.H. to Father's house every weekend and he would give Mother $150.

         Regarding his services, Father explained he completed the parenting course and most therapy sessions. Father confirmed the last time he attended a therapy session was in January 2017, and testified he stopped going to therapy sessions because Siegel went on vacation and he could not get Siegel's phone number after his daughter broke his phone. Father testified he met every goal his therapist set for him, e.g., he now owns his own home and he and his wife each own their own vehicles. Father also explained he visits A.C.H. every Monday for an hour. Father related that during visits, A.C.H. recognizes Father and comes to him when he arrives, he brings the child toys, and he and A.C.H. eat snacks and play. Father testified he would like to take A.C.H. home with him that day, can provide for A.C.H. and meet all of A.C.H.'s needs, and is currently paying child support for A.C.H. Father also testified it is in both his and A.C.H.'s best interest for A.C.H. to be returned to Father.

         G.C., the foster mother of A.C.H. and A.K.H., testified the children have been in her family's care for over a year and a half. G.C. explained that the children are "doing great" and "fit right in" with her family, and she, her spouse, and the children all enjoy playing sports and are "always doing things as a family together, " such as going to the park, the zoo, and SeaWorld. G.C. testified she loves the children and she and her spouse are willing to provide a permanent, adoptive home for the children. G.C. related that the children refer to her parents and her spouse's parents as "grandma and grandpa, " and that they attend church with the children weekly. G.C. also explained she provides a crime-free home for the children and that she and her spouse intend to raise the children "as best as [they] can and make sure that they grow up to be stable, healthy young men."

         G.C. testified that if the court decided not to terminate Father's parental rights and A.C.H. were returned to Father, she would still adopt A.K.H. and would ensure that the children maintain a relationship with each other. G.C. explained she and her spouse intervened in the lawsuit when they found out A.C.H. would possibly be returned to Father because they want ...


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