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In re L.M.T.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

May 9, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF L.M.T., et al., Children

          From the 45th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016-PA-00862 Honorable Norma Gonzales, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice Irene Rios, Justice


          Irene Rios, Justice.

         Appellants, Father and Mother, separately appeal the trial court's order terminating their parental rights to their three children, L.M.T, K.R.T., and K.N.T. The only issue presented by Mother 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. Father challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the trial court's findings with regard to the statutory grounds as well as its finding that termination of Father's parental rights was in the children's best interest. We affirm the trial court's order.


         On April 26, 2016, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("Department") filed its original petition to terminate parental rights. In the supporting affidavit, Department Caseworker Bianca Martinez related the Department received a referral on April 21, 2016, alleging Father and Mother were manufacturing methamphetamine in their home. The referral further alleged the children were present in the home, which was unsanitary and dangerous and that L.M.T. had a skin condition the parents were treating with gasoline and other hazardous materials. The supporting affidavit indicated K.R.T. and L.M.T. had been placed with their maternal grandmother ("Grandmother") as the family safety plan.

         In the course of investigating the allegations, Martinez and Department Investigator Adam Jacobs were unable to make contact with the parents and learned Grandmother had only K.R.T. in her care. Grandmother indicated L.M.T. was with Father. Also during the course of the Department's investigation, Grandmother was arrested for possession of methamphetamines, which invalidated the family's safety plan. Jacobs advised Father via telephone that K.R.T. needed to be picked up because of Grandmother's arrest. Father insisted he could not collect K.R.T. that day and refused to tell Jacobs whether he had L.M.T. in his care. The Department placed K.R.T. at the Children's Shelter and later moved her into foster care.

         Martinez subsequently met with Father, who presented Martinez with a negative drug screen result from an outside clinic. Father refused to submit to a current drug test. Father also refused Martinez access to L.M.T. Martinez informed Father of the allegations, which Father denied. Although Father agreed to allow Martinez to see L.M.T. later that evening at his home, when Martinez went to the home at the designated time, no one was there. The Department subsequently removed L.M.T. from the parents' custody and placed her in foster care.

         On October 4, 2016, the Department filed an amended petition to terminate parental rights, adding the newborn child K.N.T. In the supporting affidavit, Department Investigator Jaclyn Blake stated the Department received a referral on September 29, 2016, alleging neglectful supervision because Mother tested positive for marijuana during childbirth. According to Blake, Mother admitted to using marijuana the day before giving birth and to using methamphetamine during the previous month. At her birth, K.N.T. experienced tremors, which is indicative of drug withdrawal. K.N.T.'s meconium tested positive for marijuana and amphetamine. The supporting affidavit noted that L.M.T. also tested positive for marijuana and methamphetamine at birth and that Mother tested positive for marijuana and amphetamines at K.R.T.'s birth.

         Department Caseworker Tekeema Scott testified that the family service plan required both Mother and Father to submit to random hair follicle and urinalysis ("UA") drug testing; undergo psychosocial evaluation and participate in counseling; provide proof of stable housing and employment; attend AA or NA meetings twice a month; and maintain sobriety. The service plan additionally required Mother to provide proof of prenatal care and attend the Mommies Program, a program for expectant mothers with substance abuse disorders, and Father was additionally required to attend the Compadre y Compadre parenting program. Scott testified Mother indicated she worked at a tire shop and for a company by the name of "Aztec, " but did not provide any documentation proving stable employment. Scott confirmed Father's former employer attended a family service meeting. Scott testified Father informed her he began his own company and showed her a business card, but did not provide any other verification of employment such as tax forms or client contracts. Scott testified she visited Mother and Father at an RV situated on a piece of land, but neither parent provided any documentation indicating they were renting the RV and land or were otherwise legally living at the property.

         Scott referred Mother and Father to the Drug Court because she believed both Mother and Father would benefit from the intensive case management associated with Drug Court. Family Drug Court monitor Elise Barker testified both Mother and Father took part in the program for only two weeks. Mother tested positive for the use of amphetamine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and benzodiazepine (Xanax) at different times in that two-week period. Barker testified Mother refused to undergo inpatient drug treatment as required by the program. Barker testified Father's drug screens resulted positive for methamphetamine. Barker further testified Father did not agree with the testing results and was uncooperative.

         Scott then referred Mother and Father to cognitive behavioral counselor Patricia Boone. Boone testified Father completed the psychosocial evaluation, but then refused to take part in counseling. Mother also completed the psychosocial evaluation but attended only two appointments with Boone. Upon being informed Mother was not engaging in other services, Boone insisted Mother present a "clean UA" before she could re-engage in counseling with Boone. According to Scott, Mother did not present a "clean UA" and did not continue with Boone.

         Scott next referred both parents to cognitive behavioral counselor Delores Mower when the parents indicated they wanted to re-engage in services. Mower testified the Department required the parents to attend twice-monthly counseling sessions, but that Mother and Father each attended only two assessment sessions and two counseling sessions. According to Mower "[b]oth of the clients just quit coming." Mower testified neither Mother nor Father followed through with their treatment plans.

         An employee of Child Advocates San Antonio ("CASA") observed the parents and children during visitation. The employee testified the parents brought appropriate toys, food, and games for the children. According to the employee, Mother was engaged and attentive toward her children. The employee ...

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