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In re M.M.M.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

May 30, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF M.M.M. and L.M.M., Children

          From the 45th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016PA01206 Honorable John D. Gabriel Jr., Judge Presiding [1]

          Justice Sitting: Marialyn Barnard, Justice Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Marialyn Barnard, Justice

         AFFIRMED

         This is an appeal from a trial court's order terminating appellant father's ("Father") parental rights to his children, M.M.M. and L.M.M.[2] On appeal, Father contends the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the trial court's finding that termination was in the best interest of the children. We affirm the order of termination.

         Background

         The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("the Department") became involved with the family when it received a report that Mother, who has four children in addition to M.M.M. and L.M.M., struck one of the children with a hanger. The Department opened a "Family-Based Case." Although that report could not be confirmed, during family-based services, there was a domestic violence incident that resulted in Mother's arrest. All of the children were initially placed with a grandmother. However, when she was unable to care for them, the Department removed the children, placing them in various foster-care situations. When M.M.M. and L.M.M. were removed, they were not placed with Father "due to issues involving the domestic violence and his drug use and instability." Rather, they were placed with a paternal aunt, i.e., Father's sister.

         The Department created a service plan for Father requiring him to: (1) participate in individual counseling to address issues of "abuse and neglect and maladaptive behaviors"; (2) complete a drug assessment and follow through with recommendation for drug treatment, including inpatient treatment if necessary; (3) complete a psycho-social evaluation and follow through with any recommendations; (4) complete the VENT program to address issues relating to domestic violence, anger management, and parenting; and (5) demonstrate he has the ability to provide a safe, drug-free, nurturing environment for his children, and is able to provide for their physical, medical, and educational needs.

         At the hearing, the trial court heard testimony from: (1) Lora Simmons, the Department caseworker throughout the course of the case; and (2) Father. Ms. Simmons testified that with regard to his service plan, Father completed the VENT program. And although he engaged in counseling, he never completed counseling services. Moreover, drug use was the Department's main concern with Father - specifically marijuana use. In that regard, Father completed the drug assessment, which resulted in a referral for drug treatment. However, Father never participated in drug treatment in accordance with the referral.

          Ms. Simmons also testified that other than providing diapers on occasion, Father did not provide regular support for the children. Moreover, he has not demonstrated stability with regard to his living situation - never providing evidence of a place of his own, residing with family, friends, or in hotels.

         As for visitation, Ms. Simmons described Father's visits as irregular, testifying his own sister stated his visits were infrequent. Ms. Simmons opined that Father's parental rights should be terminated because he has failed to place his children's needs above his own, and the current placement - with a paternal aunt - is likely to result in adoption.

         The trial court also heard testimony from Father. Father admitted to marijuana use, but claimed that he has been clean for the last month. He also admitted he failed to complete counseling and drug treatment, but claimed it was because of his work schedule. He contradicted Ms. Simmons's testimony about support, testifying he provides support for his children "all the time" by placing money on his sister's credit card. However, he could not provide the court with a dollar amount with regard to support. Contradicting Ms. Simmons's testimony again, Father stated he sees the children "pretty much every weekend, " even though he lives in Houston.

         At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court terminated Father's rights, finding he: (1) failed to support his children in accordance with his ability; and (2) failed to comply with the provisions of a court-ordered service plan that specifically established the actions necessary for him to obtain the return of his children. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1) (F), (O) (West Supp. 2017). The trial court further found termination of Father's parental rights would be in his children's best interests. See id. ...


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