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In re D.J.O.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

April 25, 2018


          From the 45th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016-PA-01430 Honorable Peter Sakai, Judge Presiding

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




         Appellant Father appeals the trial court's order terminating his parental rights to his two children, D.J.O. and I.V.N.[1] The only issue presented on appeal is whether the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support the trial court's finding that termination was in the children's best interest. We affirm the trial court's order.


         On June 30, 2016, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("Department") filed a petition to terminate parental rights. On the date the petition was filed, D.J.O. was nearly three years' old and I.V.N. was approximately six-and-a-half months' old. A bench trial was held on November 27, 2017.

         Department caseworker Claudia Cruz testified the Department received a referral on November 9, 2015, alleging abuse by Mother because I.V.N. experienced tremors associated with methadone withdrawal. Later, it was confirmed that both I.V.N. and Mother tested positive for methadone, benzodiazepines (Xanax), and cocaine at the time of I.V.N.'s birth. The Department referred the family for services.

         Cruz testified that on December 11, 2015, the Department received another referral, alleging Mother had been involved in an altercation with Father's sister, Jenny, resulting in law enforcement officers being called to the home for a domestic dispute. Mother told officers Father hit her with a baby carrier, but she later recanted that statement. The Department held a safety network meeting with Mother, Father, and others where it was decided Father would be the safety plan for Mother and Mother would not be alone with the children.

         In April 2016, Department caseworker Lorena Ramos received a phone call from I.V.N.'s home-health therapist. The therapist informed Ramos that when the therapist went to the home, the children were alone with Mother, which was in violation of the family safety plan. When Ramos subsequently conducted a home visit, she found Father sitting in the driver's seat of his vehicle, with the ignition engaged and music playing loudly, his nieces in the back seat, and an open container of beer in his hand. A six-pack of alcohol sat beside Father in the front passenger seat. Law enforcement officers were called to the home.

         On June 28, 2016, law enforcement officers were called to the home following a domestic violence incident during which Father struck Mother and knocked her to the ground. According to Ramos's affidavit, Mother also related the domestic abuse had been occurring for "a few months" and specifically described an incident during which Father "pinned her against the wall by her throat, choking her and then let her fall and threw the stroller at her and began to push it down on top of her."

         Father left the home before officers arrived, and in the course of their investigation, officers discovered marijuana plants growing in the house. According to Ramos's affidavit, the marijuana plants belonged to Father, and Mother admitted Father used marijuana. However, at trial, Mother testified she couldn't say Father was growing the plants because she "never saw him go and, you know, do whatever he had to do to grow them, but they were there." Father testified the marijuana plants "were just there."

         On June 28, 2016, the Department initiated a new safety plan through which Mother agreed she would not allow Father access to the home or children. However, the next morning, on June 29, 2016, Mother told Ramos that Father went to the home and collected the children to take them to daycare. The children were removed from their parents' custody, and the Department filed its original petition on June 30, 2016.

         Department caseworker Norma Hayes testified Father was required to engage in "[d]rug treatment, drug assessment, drug counseling, " psychosocial counseling, and psychological counseling if it was recommended by the counselor, as well as parenting classes. Father was also required to maintain, and provide proof of, stable employment. Hayes testified that although Father completed the initial drug assessment and treatment, he tested positive two months following completion of those particular services. After testing positive, Father was ordered by the trial ...

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