Appeal from the 314th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2016-01043J
consists of Justices Christopher, Jewell, and Bourliot.
M.S.M. ("Mother") appeals the trial court's
final decree terminating her parental rights and appointing
the Department of Family and Protective Services as sole
managing conservator of her child C.A.G., III
("Carter"). The trial court terminated Mother's
parental rights on predicate grounds of endangerment and
failure to comply with a family service plan. See
Tex. Fam. Code § 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), and (O). The
trial court further found that termination of Mother's
rights was in the child's best interest. In three issues,
Mother challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the
evidence to support the trial court's findings on each
predicate ground, as well as the best-interest
finding. Because we conclude the evidence is
legally and factually sufficient to support the trial
court's findings, we affirm the judgment.
Factual and Procedural Background
Referral and investigation
February 2016, the Department received a referral alleging
sexual abuse and neglectful supervision of five-year-old
Carter. At that time, Carter lived at home with Mother and
Father. It was reported that Mother and Father use drugs,
which impaired their ability to properly supervise a
vulnerably aged child. The referral source also reported that
Father is a known sex offender with pictures of naked
children on his phone.
receiving the referral, a Department caseworker interviewed
Carter at his elementary school. Carter stated that he had
seen his mother and father fighting at home. Carter also
reported that he had seen his father smoke something that was
black; when his father smoked it, his father could not run
very fast. The caseworker noted a bruise under Carter's
eye, and Carter said it happened when he fell down the
caseworker interviewed Mother at the school as well. Mother
stated that she was a stay-at-home mom and that Father worked
in construction through a "temp agency." Mother
reported that she received housing assistance, food stamps,
and Medicaid. She denied any (1) criminal or Department
history, (2) drug or alcohol use in the home, (3) guns in the
home, or (4) family violence in the home. When asked about
the bruise beneath Carter's eye, Mother replied that
Carter fell down stairs and she had to grab him to break his
fall. Mother confirmed that Father is a registered sex
offender but denied that the incident involved a child. The
caseworker informed Mother that the caseworker needed to
transport Carter to the Children's Assessment Center
("CAC") for a forensic interview.
the caseworker arrived at the CAC, she contacted Father to
inform him that a forensic interview was about to begin with
Carter. Father arrived at the CAC and was belligerent and
demanded information about Carter. CAC staff determined that
Father was a danger to the environment, and Father was
escorted out of the interview area.
his forensic interview, Carter stated that he lived with his
mother and father. He stated that his mother was nice because
she did not take his toys away, but his father was very mean
to his mother and argued with her. Carter reported that he
had seen his father grab his mother by the hands and
"have" her against the wall. Carter said he was
four years old when this incident occurred, and that he
called the police and his father was put in jail. When asked
about the bruise under his eye, Carter said that his mother
"whooped" him on the eye because he would not stop
playing with his toys. Carter stated that his father
"whoops" him with a knife. Mother interrupted the
interview at this point and retrieved Carter. She attempted
to leave the CAC with Carter, but a supervisor and the
interviewer prevented her leaving.
caseworker interviewed Father. Father stated that he did not
notice the bruise under Carter's eye and denied all
allegations of drug use or domestic violence. Father
explained that his sex offender registration resulted from an
incident in which he "was dealing with a 19 year old
drug addict." Father denied having any inappropriate
videos or pictures on his phone and offered to let the
caseworker to go through his phone.
caseworker then spoke to Mother about statements Carter made
during his forensic interview. Mother stated that she had
noticed the bruise on Carter's eye that morning and that
it could have occurred "while they were wrestling a few
days ago." Mother denied that Carter had ever called the
police due to domestic violence and stated that Carter did
not even know how to use a telephone. She explained that the
police had been called to their home because their neighbors
were playing loud music and she and Father got into an
argument about it. She maintained that there is no drug use
in the home.
Department caseworkers informed Mother and Father that Carter
was being removed from the home, Father claimed it was a
"conspiracy" and that he and Mother had court
proceedings for an eviction proceeding the next day.
According to the caseworker, Father then "wished
death" to all Department staff present.
Department and criminal history pre-dating the
October 2014, the Department received a referral that Father
was seen slapping then three-year-old Carter in the face in
public and treating Carter "like a punching bag."
The Department ruled out the case and closed the
has no criminal history. But Father has a lengthy criminal
history, including the following convictions and sentences:
• 02/21/1990 Possession of Marijuana - 10 days'
• 02/27/1992 Criminal Mischief and Trespass - 25
• 01/14/1993 Evading Arrest - 30 days' confinement
• 03/27/1995 Misdemeanor Theft - 45 days'
• 03/27/1995 Felony Theft - 2 years' probation
• 05/29/1997 Criminal Trespass and Escape - 75 days'
• 08/11/1997 Theft - 1 year's confinement
• 08/12/1998 Burglary of Habitation - 2 years'
• 05/17/2001 Theft - 180 days' confinement
• 03/02/2002 Resisting Arrest - 190 days'
• 05/04/2003 Sexual Assault - 5 years' confinement
• 03/10/2009 Possession of Marijuana and Evading Arrest
- 20 days' confinement
Pretrial removal affidavit
Department filed a petition for protection of a child, for
conservatorship, and for termination in suit affecting the
parent-child relationship, supported by an affidavit
outlining many of the above facts. The Department requested
Carter's removal because Mother and Father could not
adequately supervise Carter due to their alleged drug abuse
and history of domestic violence. As noted above, Carter
reported Mother's and Father's domestic violence
during his forensic interview. Based on the parents'
history of violent behavior, Father's threatening
behavior toward agency staff, and the allegations of drug
abuse, the Department opined that there was an immediate and
continuing danger to Carter's physical health and safety
warranting Carter's removal and naming the Department his
temporary managing conservator.