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In re A.R.C.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Eleventh District

June 21, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF A.R.C. AND S.A.C., CHILDREN

          On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2 Ector County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. CC2-16-074-PC

          Panel consists of: Willson, J., Bailey, J., and Wright, S.C.J. [1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MIKE WILLSON JUSTICE

         This is an appeal from an order in which the trial court terminated the parental rights of the mother and father of A.R.C. and S.A.C. Each parent filed a notice of appeal, and each parent presents eight issues for appellate review. In most of the issues, the parents challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support termination. The mother additionally asserts that the trial court improperly based its decision on the parents' economic situation. We affirm.

         I. Termination Findings and Standards

         The termination of parental rights must be supported by clear and convincing evidence. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b) (West Supp. 2017). To determine if the evidence is legally sufficient in a parental termination case, we review all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the finding and determine whether a rational trier of fact could have formed a firm belief or conviction that its finding was true. In re J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d 570, 573 (Tex. 2005). To determine if the evidence is factually sufficient, we give due deference to the finding and determine whether, on the entire record, a factfinder could reasonably form a firm belief or conviction about the truth of the allegations against the parent. In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 25-26 (Tex. 2002). To terminate parental rights, it must be shown by clear and convincing evidence that the parent has committed one of the acts listed in Section 161.001(b)(1)(A)-(U) and that termination is in the best interest of the child. Fam. § 161.001(b).

         With respect to the best interest of a child, no unique set of factors need be proved. In re C.J.O., 325 S.W.3d 261, 266 (Tex. App.-Eastland 2010, pet. denied). But courts may use the non-exhaustive Holley factors to shape their analysis. Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367, 371-72 (Tex. 1976). These include, but are not limited to, (1) the desires of the child, (2) the emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future, (3) the emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future, (4) the parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody, (5) the programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interest of the child, (6) the plans for the child by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody, (7) the stability of the home or proposed placement, (8) the acts or omissions of the parent that may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one, and (9) any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent. Id. Additionally, evidence that proves one or more statutory grounds for termination may also constitute evidence illustrating that termination is in the child's best interest. C.J.O., 325 S.W.3d at 266.

         In this case, the trial court found that each parent had committed three of the acts listed in Section 161.001(b)(1)-those found in subsections (D), (E), and (O). Specifically, the trial court found that the parents had knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the children to remain in conditions or surroundings that endangered the children's physical or emotional well-being; that the parents had engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the children with persons who engaged in conduct that endangered the children's physical or emotional well-being; and that each parent had failed to comply with the provisions of a court order that specifically established the actions necessary for that parent to obtain the return of the children, who had been in the managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services for not less than nine months as a result of their removal from the parent for abuse or neglect. The trial court also found, pursuant to Section 161.001(b)(2), that termination of the parents' parental rights would be in the best interest of the children.

         II. Evidence at Trial

         The record shows that the Department first became involved with the parents in July 2016 after a report of neglectful supervision of the children. During a follow-up visit, the Department's investigator went to the RV where the family resided. The investigator described the RV as "unsanitary" and the children as dirty. Clothes and trash covered floor. There was no food in the RV, no sleeping area for the children, and no running water. A marihuana pipe was located on a shelf where it could be reached by the children, and the mother admitted to the investigator that the parents would test positive for methamphetamine if they were to drug test that day. The Department initiated a safety plan in which the mother and the children were to live with and be supervised by the mother's father. Shortly thereafter, the mother left that house, and the Department proceeded with an emergency removal. At the time of removal, A.R.C. was of school age, but the parents had not enrolled him in school.

         The parents had an ongoing history of neglectful supervision and drug use while the children were in their care. The parents' use of drugs endangered the children. The record indicates that S.A.C. had tested positive for THC and methamphetamine at birth. The Department's conservatorship worker noted that, based upon both parents' positive drug tests after removal, ongoing drug use by the parents was still a concern at the time of trial. In addition, the parents had failed to provide a safe, stable home environment for the children. The parents moved from place to place and had been evicted shortly before the final hearing.

         The children were placed with their maternal grandfather and his wife at the time of removal. The children remained there during the entirety of the case. The record reveals that the maternal grandfather wishes to adopt the children and that he had already completed the licensing process at the time of trial. The maternal grandfather testified that the children were doing well in his home but that, earlier in the case when the parents were still visiting the children, the children acted up for a few days after the visits. The conservatorship worker testified that the children were doing well in the grandfather's home and that the stability he provided was beneficial to the children.

         The evidence showed that the children loved their parents and that the parents did not want their parental rights to be terminated. Nonetheless, the Department's goal for the children was termination of the parents' rights and adoption by the maternal grandfather. The Department's investigator and the conservatorship worker believed that it would be in the best interest of the children to terminate the parental rights of both parents.

         III. Issues ...


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