Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re P.S.E.

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

May 29, 2018


          On Appeal from the 314th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2016-03612J

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Massengale and Brown.


          Michael Massengale Justice

         This is an appeal from a decree terminating a mother's parental rights to two of her children. The mother argues that the evidence was factually insufficient to support the trial court's final decree. We affirm.


         The Department of Family and Protective Services received a referral alleging the mother's neglectful supervision of her six-year-old daughter, P.S.E., and of her four-year-old son, J.T.S. According to the referral, it was reported that the mother was living in a hotel room with the children, and there was a concern that she was "dealing, using drugs or prostituting herself." It was further reported that the mother left P.S.E. unsupervised in the room all day while she slept, and that she failed to seek any medical care for J.T.S., who was sick. The mother was alleged to have left the children with different people for a week at a time, and there was "no information to indicate" whether the people were "appropriate." There was no concern for physical abuse, although the referral included allegations that the mother cursed "like a sailor, " yelled at the children, and became physically violent with other adults in the children's presence. It was noted that the mother had a history of using drugs, including "[m]eth and [h]eroin." There was concern that the mother was using those drugs again, although there was no "definitive proof." The referral also alleged that "the mother drinks, " but the impact, if any, on the children was unknown.

         The Department conducted an investigation, and it subsequently filed a petition seeking temporary managing conservatorship of P.S.E. and J.T.S., and further seeking termination of parental rights if reunification with the parents was found to be unsuitable. Following a full adversary hearing, the Department was granted temporary managing conservatorship of both children. At the time of removal, the fathers of both children were incarcerated, and P.S.E.'s father's scheduled release was in September 2028. The children initially were placed with their maternal grandmother.

         The Department developed individually-tailored family-service plans for the mother and for the fathers of P.S.E. and J.T.S. The trial court incorporated the plans by reference in a status-hearing order, making the plans orders of the court. Each plan listed several tasks and services to be completed by the parents for reunification with P.S.E. or J.T.S. to occur. The plans also included a summary of the referral received by the Department, which alleged neglectful supervision of both children by their mother. Each plan stated that it was intended to help the parent provide a safe environment for children within a specified time, and that if the parent was unwilling or unable to provide that safe environment, parental and custodial duties and rights could be restricted or terminated, or the child or children might not be returned to the parent.

         The Department's petition to terminate parental rights was tried to the bench. The Department called the assigned caseworker as its sole witness. The mother also testified. The Department offered 11 exhibits which were admitted into evidence. These included, among other documents, the children's birth certificates, the order appointing the Department as temporary managing conservator of both children, family-service plans for the mother and the fathers (including a summary of the referral received by the Department as the "reason for child protective services involvement"), results of three drug tests for the mother, and documentation related to the criminal history of both children's fathers. P.S.E.'s father relinquished his parental rights prior to trial. The drug tests indicated that the mother had tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine in March 2015 and in June 2016. In a test conducted in August 2015, she tested negative for any drugs.

         The caseworker testified that the Department sought custody of P.S.E. and J.T.S. because the mother was providing "inadequate supervision" to the children. There also was a concern that the mother had been using or selling drugs out of the hotel where she and the two children were staying. There was a concern that the mother might harm herself or her children.

         According to the caseworker, upon receiving the referral the Department interviewed the mother as part of its investigation. The mother informed the Department that her "drunken uncle" kicked her out of his home. At the time of the interview, she had been living with her children in a hotel for two weeks. Prior to that, she had stayed at a different hotel. During the interview, the mother admitted to having used "meth and marijuana." She also acknowledged that she had a history with the Department. The caseworker testified that because both of the children's fathers were "currently in jail, " the Department had not conducted interviews with either.[*]

         The caseworker testified that the Department had received six prior reports concerning the mother. In one previous investigation, the mother admitted to leaving the children with a stepfather and threatening to kill herself. The Department also had been concerned about the mother's drug use during that investigation. As a result of that investigation, P.S.E. and J.T.S. were placed with a maternal aunt. When the mother secured a job, the aunt felt that she was in "a stable position, " and the children were returned to their mother. That case was closed approximately one year before

         The mother had other children who lived with their father, and the Department had not sought to take custody of them. The mother had supervised visits with those children pursuant to a court order.

         The mother was required to submit to random drug testing as part of her family-service plan. She submitted to one drug test at the onset of the case, and she tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine. Despite requests from the Department, the mother failed to submit to any additional drug tests. The caseworker testified that the mother had not completed any other services ordered by her family-service plan. The mother failed to keep in contact with the Department, or with her children, both of which were required by her family-service plan. She did not complete parenting classes, counseling, or a drug assessment, and she had not provided proof of employment or a lease, all of which also were required by her family-service plan.

          As of the time of trial, the mother had not seen P.S.E. or J.T.S. in over a year. She appeared at the initial adversary hearing, and she was offered an opportunity to visit the children. But after she failed to appear at the subsequent status hearing, the court determined that the mother was not participating in any services, and it entered an order prohibiting her from visiting the children. The caseworker testified that if the mother had complied with her family-service plan by participating in services and testing negative for drugs, she would have been able to have visits with the children. She further testified that while the case was pending the mother had not written any letters to the children, nor had she reached out to them on birthdays or holidays. The mother did not provide any support for them during that time. The caseworker testified that the children's fathers also had not been in contact and neither had provided support for his child.

         Eight months before trial, the mother was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. The caseworker testified that she ultimately was sentenced to time served.

         Until approximately one or two weeks before trial, the Department had no contact with the mother for over a year. The mother contacted the caseworker before trial and informed her that she had been in a rehabilitation program for the previous four months. The mother had not contacted the caseworker before starting the program. The caseworker reached out to the mother's counselor at the rehabilitation facility, and she requested that the counselor send her "any and all records" of the mother's time at the facility. The counselor provided the Department a log of the mother's drug test results and a personal recommendation letter. She did not provide any additional documentation. The caseworker testified that the mother was regularly tested for drugs during her time in the rehabilitation program, but she did not testify about the results of the mother's drug tests while in that program.

         The caseworker testified that she did not have time to fully vet the treatment facility or the rehabilitation program. She confirmed that if the mother had provided notice prior to entering the facility, the Department would have been able to vet it. Because the mother had failed to maintain contact with the Department, it did not have any information about the program other than what the mother had told the caseworker.

         At the time of trial, the mother was living with her godmother. The caseworker testified that the Department considered that home to be a stable environment. The caseworker did not know whether the mother paid rent, or whether there was a lease agreement. The caseworker agreed that it would be "fair to say" that the mother would have no place to live if some disagreement arose between her and the godmother. The caseworker agreed that the mother was willing to continue to work services and to continue with her drug treatment plan to get the children back.

         P.S.E. and J.T.S. had been in a "foster to adopt" home for the five months leading up to trial. The caseworker had visited the foster home, and she had observed the foster parents interact with the children. She testified that she had no concerns about the placement. She stated that the children were doing "really well" ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.