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In re C.A.E.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

May 23, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF C.A.E., ET AL., CHILDREN

          From the 37th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016PA02691 Honorable Gloria Saldaña, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice, Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice Irene Rios, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Irene Rios, Justice

         Appellant Mother appeals the trial court's order terminating her parental rights to her three children, C.A.E., R.J.E., and J.R.L. 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. We affirm the trial court's order.

         Background

         On November 30, 2016, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("Department") filed its original petition to terminate parental rights. A bench trial was held on November 14, 2017. At the time of the trial, the children were eleven, ten, and five years' old. Mother did not appear at trial, and no witnesses were called on her behalf. The only witness to testify was Department caseworker Olivia Stephens.

         Stephens related that the incident leading to the removal of the children was a family get together during which a fifteen-year-old girl was given Xanax and Mother's boyfriend, M.G., sexually assaulted the girl. According to Stephens, the two younger children, R.J.E. and J.R.L. were present at the party and Mother was under the influence of Xanax at the time.

         Stephens testified the Department's primary concerns regarding Mother were her history of drug use and the presence of M.G., which put the children at risk of harm. Stephens related that Mother admitted using a "white powdery substance" but recanted when Stephens attempted to place Mother in rehab. Stephens testified Mother tested positive for the use of methamphetamine on at least three separate occasions. Stephens advised the Department was also concerned with Mother's ability to properly parent while under the influence and noted the Department questioned whether the children were protected from M.G.'s criminal acts. Stephens testified the Department was also concerned, with regard to the allegation of sexual assault against M.G., because Mother explained that she believed there was no issue with the sexual assault because the fifteen-year-old girl consented.

         The record shows Mother's service plan required her to submit to drug assessment and random drug testing, maintain sobriety, undergo a mental health evaluation, and attend individual counseling and parenting classes. Stephens testified Mother did not follow the recommendations or take part in services. According to Stephens, Mother "continue[d] to use and missed counseling - drug counseling regularly." Stephens further testified Mother did not attend individual counseling and was unsuccessfully discharged three times. Stephens also related she advised Mother "she needed to make a choice between her children and [M.G.]." According to Stephens, Mother "stayed with [M.G.]."

         Stephens reported that during the family group conference, Mother related she was hearing voices and repeated the voices, flipping from the voices to the discussion going on around her.

         Mother was admitted to Nix hospital, but was not admitted to the mental health ward because she was under the influence of drugs at the time of her admission. Mother's admission to Nix lasted only two days, and she did not undergo a mental health evaluation in that time. According to Stephens, Mother has not addressed her mental health concerns.

         The affidavit in support of the Department's petition further describes the allegations leading to removal, relating Mother and M.G. used methamphetamine in the presence of the children. The affidavit also states there were allegations of ongoing domestic violence in the home. According to the affidavit, Department investigator Alexander Burton attempted to make contact with Mother, but was unable to do so. However, in the course of the investigation, Mother's neighbor informed Burton that Mother used pills, marijuana, and methamphetamine. When Burton was able to make contact with Mother, Mother refused Burton access to the children.

         The affidavit also relates that in October and November 2016, prior to the children's removal, Mother failed to remain in contact with the Department and did not maintain a stable residence. During that time, Mother moved often and caused the children to change schools "multiple times."

         The affidavit additionally relates Mother's history with the Department. In January 2008, the Department received a referral alleging neglectful supervision on Mother's part because C.A.E. was wandering outside the home while the adults inside were using drugs. Mother tested positive for cocaine. In April 2009, the Department received another referral alleging neglectful supervision because Mother was staying in a known drug house with C.A.E. and R.J.E. The referral further alleged the presence of drug paraphernalia and Mother's suspected drug use. The children were removed from Mother's custody but the family was later reunified. In February 2011, the Department received a referral alleging neglectful supervision ...


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