IN THE INTEREST OF A.J.R. A/K/A A.J.R., A CHILD
Appeal from the 314th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2017-04707J
consists of Justices Wise, Zimmerer, and Spain.
accelerated appeal arises from a final order in a suit in
which termination of the parent-child relationship was at
issue. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 109.002(a-1).
The child is Alex; his parents are L.D.J. (Mother) and
appellant A.R. (Father).The trial court terminated each
parent's rights and appointed the Texas Department of
Family and Protective Services (the Department) to be
Alex's managing conservator.
appeal, Father challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to
support termination. We conclude legally and factually
sufficient evidence supports the trial court's findings
that Father endangered Alex and that termination of his
parental rights is in Alex's best interest. Therefore, we
affirm the trial court's final order.
following facts come from the affidavit of Department
caseworker Michael Ejeh, which was admitted into evidence at
was born prematurely at 35 weeks' gestation. Both he and
Mother tested positive for amphetamines at his birth. When
Alex was 10 days old, the Department received a referral of
neglectful supervision of him by Mother. The reporter alleged
Mother had been diagnosed with, among other things, bipolar
disorder. Mother was also said to suffer from suicidal
visited Alex in the hospital the next day. No family member
was with Alex at that time. Ejeh spoke with Mother in the
hospital and noticed she had a black eye-an injury she
claimed resulted from playing baseball with her nephews but
Ejeh later learned may have been the product of an assault by
Father. Mother claimed she was prescribed various
medications, including an antipsychotic and a stimulant, but
could not provide proof of those prescriptions when asked.
was not at the hospital when Ejeh visited. Ejeh first spoke
with Father two days later. Father said he was from
California but had lived in Texas for two years. He said he
had two children in California, ages nine and two, both of
whom he said lived with their mother. Father denied any
history of criminal activity, mental illness, domestic
violence, drug use, or being abused as a child. He also
alleged he had no history with the Department.
day, Mother and Father agreed to a Parental Child Safety Plan
(PCSP) with the Department. Under the PCSP, Alex and both
parents would move in with Alex's paternal grandmother
when he was discharged, and both parents would submit to a
drug test. Neither Mother nor Father appeared for the drug
test. For various reasons, including reported drug use by the
grandmother, the PCSP became unsustainable.
suffered a serious health scare a few days later. His blood
had been drawn at a doctor's appointment. After he left,
tests run on the blood revealed he suffered from low
hemoglobin levels and direly needed a blood transfusion.
Clinic staff attempted to contact Mother and Father several
times that day but could not reach them. Ejeh eventually
tracked the parents down the following day, by which time
Alex was said to be at risk of death if he did not receive a
blood transfusion immediately. Mother took Alex to the
hospital; he was admitted for four days and successfully
after Mother arrived at the hospital with Alex, Department
supervisor Debra Reyna talked with her about implementing
another PCSP. Mother rejected the idea, insisting Alex stay
with her. In support of her contention she could take care of
Alex, Mother offered explanations for her and Father's
failures to submit to drug testing as they had agreed and her
failure to submit evidence of prescriptions for the
psychotropic medications she said she was taking. Reyna
offered to conduct a family team meeting with the Department
and the parents. Mother agreed and "very much"
wanted to have such a meeting to "explain everything
Mother's professed enthusiasm about a family team
meeting, neither Mother or Father contacted the Department to
schedule the meeting. Neither parent proposed another person
for a PCSC. Neither parent visited Alex during his hospital
stay. Neither parent was seen after the day Mother took Alex
to the hospital.
would need close medical supervision upon discharge,
according to his doctor. Because the Department could not
locate Mother or Father, the Department formally removed Alex
and placed him in foster care. The Department then filed its
petition for protection of a child, conservatorship, and
termination, attaching Ejeh's affidavit.
a full adversary hearing, the trial court found Alex was in
such danger due to his parents' acts or failures to act
that he needed to be removed from their care immediately for
his protection. The court appointed the Department to be
Alex's temporary managing conservator and ordered the
parents to comply with any family service plan by the
Department. The service plan would identify the goals they
needed to achieve and tasks and services they needed to
complete before Alex could be placed in their care.
service plan required him to, among other things: complete a
psychological evaluation and follow the evaluator's
recommendations; support Alex, financially and otherwise;
complete a substance abuse assessment; complete individual
counseling to develop his parenting skills; maintain stable
employment and provide the caseworker with appropriate
documentation; maintain contact with the Department; and
attend all visits with Alex, court dates, and meetings.
did not appear at trial; he was in jail in California at the
time. He was represented by counsel.
Evidence about Father
tests conducted immediately after the emergency hearing in
this case, at the beginning of October 2017, revealed Father
was positive for alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines, and
methamphetamines. His levels for each substance were multiple
times higher than the minimum level that will yield a
confirmed positive result. For example, the minimum level for
a confirmed positive result for methamphetamine is 500
nanograms per milliliter [ng/mL] by urinalysis and 300
picograms per microgram [pg/mg] by hair follicle test.
Father's levels were 52, 200 ng/mL and greater than 50,
000 ng/mg. The two components considered in alcohol testing,
ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate, both have a confirmed
positive level of 250 ng/mL. Father's levels were 40, 100
ng/mL and 6, 860 ng/mL, respectively.
weeks later, the trial court ordered Father to remain in the
courtroom following the full adversary hearing for drug
testing. Father left the courtroom without submitting to the
test. His leaving is considered a positive drug test result
under Department policy. Three more drug tests were scheduled
through the end of February 2018, but Father failed to appear
for any of them. Like walking out before being tested,
failing to appear for a drug test is deemed a positive
was extradited to California on a theft charge sometime after
the scheduled February test. No further drug tests ...