Appeal from the 314th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2017-04307J
consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Jewell and
E.A.M. ("Father") appeals the trial court's
final decree terminating parental rights to his child L.M.
("Louise") and appointing the Department of Family
and Protective Services as the child's sole managing
conservator. The trial court terminated Father's parental
rights on predicate grounds of endangerment, constructive
abandonment, and failure to complete a family service plan.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(D),
(E), (N), and (O). The trial court further found that
termination of Father's rights was in the child's
best interest. In four issues Father challenges the legal and
factual sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial
court's findings on the predicate grounds and that
termination was in the child's best interest. Because we
conclude the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to
support the trial court's findings, we affirm.
relatives C.M. and J.M. ("Intervenors") appealed
the trial court's order striking their petition in
intervention. However, Intervenors did not file a brief. On
January 22, 2019, this court ordered intervenors to file a
brief on or before January 28, 2019, or risk dismissal of
their appeal for want of prosecution. Intervenors filed no
brief. We therefore dismiss Intervenors'
Factual and Procedural Background
The initial referral and investigation
Department received a referral alleging neglectful
supervision of Louise. Events leading to the referral began
with a response to a domestic disturbance call at the
parents' home by Humble Police Department Officer Andrew
Knight. M.R.H. ("Mother") answered the door with
bruises on her forehead "in a hysterical state."
Knight observed multiple tents containing growing marijuana
plants in the apartment and a marijuana pipe on the floor.
Knight observed Louise-one year old at the time-walking
around the apartment holding a container of Xanax. Both
parents were arrested for endangering a child and Father also
was charged with assault of a family member and possession of
marijuana. Louise was released to a family friend.
Department investigated. Mother denied knowledge of the
marijuana plants. According to the investigator's report,
Mother "admitted to domestic violence in her
relationship with [Father]." The investigator further
noted that Mother "was observed with multiple lumps and
bruises on her face during the interview." Mother signed
a safety plan and agreed to work with the Department.
denied any domestic violence stating, "everybody gets
into it." When the caseworker asked Father about
Mother's bruises Father began crying and asked if Mother
was going to leave him. Father denied having multiple
marijuana plants and claimed he had only two plants for
personal use. Father also signed a safety plan and agreed to
work with the Department.
days after the arrest Mother called the caseworker and
informed her that Mother and Father had been released from
jail and the endangerment charges had been dropped.
two weeks after Louise's removal, Father tested positive
for marijuana. One week later, neither parent appeared for
requested drug testing, and Mother informed the caseworker
that she would not speak with the caseworker until speaking
with her attorney. For several months the caseworker
attempted to contact Mother, Father, and the caregiver who
was caring for Louise. The caseworker was unable to contact
Mother and Father. Louise was placed with a friend of
Mother's who cared for Louise for approximately one
month, after which the caregiver no longer wanted to care for
Louise. The caregiver expressed the belief that only the
parents had "legal rights to the child" and that it
was inappropriate for either the caregiver or the Department
to care for Louise.
months later, not knowing where Louise was, the caseworker
requested a welfare check on Louise by the Humble Police
Department. A police officer went to the residence, but
Mother refused to open the door. The officer smelled the odor
of marijuana emanating from inside the house and could see a
child through the window that appeared to be the same age as
Father's criminal history
on the removal affidavit is Father's criminal history
dating from 1995 through 1999. In 1995 Father was convicted
of burglary of a habitation and sentenced to four years'
confinement. In 1997 he was convicted of unlawfully carrying
a weapon and sentenced to 90 days' confinement. In
January 1999 Father was again convicted of unlawfully
carrying a weapon and sentenced to 120 days' confinement.
In November 1999 Father was convicted of aggravated assault
with a deadly weapon and sentenced to eight years'
confinement. No criminal convictions occurring after 1999 are
listed in the record.
Family service plan
Department created a family service plan for Father, which
the court incorporated into an order. Father was served with
the Department's petition for termination and was made
aware of the Department's involvement and his need to
complete services to obtain the return of his child.
began in November 2018. At the beginning of trial the court
admitted into evidence copies of Louise's birth
certificate, DNA results establishing Father's paternity,
the removal affidavit summarizing the above facts, the trial
court's protection order and temporary orders, the status
hearing order, family service plans, both parents' drug
test results and criminal records, a police report involving
a domestic violence incident, Louise's therapist's
notes, the Child Advocate's report, the permanency plan
and progress report, and the reporters' record from a
pre-trial hearing held the previous April. Father objected to
the removal affidavit as hearsay, and he objected to the
temporary orders without stating a basis. The trial court
overruled Father's objections and admitted the evidence.
The trial court also admitted a child caregiver resource
form, a letter from one of Mother's former employers, and
a letter from Louise's play therapist.
caseworker testified that Louise was two years old at the
time of trial and was placed with adoptive foster parents who
were meeting all of Louise's physical and emotional
needs. The foster parents are married and have no other
children. They live in a three-bedroom home that has been
child-proofed. Louise had her own room and was "very
comfortable" in the home. Louise was "very
bonded" with her foster parents and had been bonded with
them from the beginning. Louise knows them as "Mommy and
Daddy" and knows their extended family members.
caseworker explained, Louise first came into the
Department's care when her parents were arrested for
endangering her. Both parents were ordered to submit to
random drug tests, but Father never appeared. Mother
confirmed to the caseworker that Father had committed
domestic violence against her and that Mother moved to
California in part to escape Father.
caseworker testified that it was in Louise's best
interest to remain with the foster parents. She testified
that Father "barely had a relationship" with
Louise. Father did not participate in any services. The
caseworker had a contact number for Father, but Father never
answered the phone or otherwise responded to efforts of the
Department to contact him. The caseworker confirmed the
police report, which detailed evidence of domestic violence
at the time of removal and several marijuana plants found
growing in the apartment.
to the caseworker, Father was made aware that a parental
termination case was pending and that the case was a
"participation of services" case-meaning his
participation was required to preserve his parental rights
over Louise. The parents were offered an opportunity to
complete services but declined to do so. The caseworker
called Father several times and left messages, but Father
never returned her calls.
Child Advocate testified that it would be in Louise's
best interest to remain with the foster parents. Louise
called them "Mommy" and "Daddy," had
bonded with them, and had developed social skills she did not
have when she was with Mother. The Child ...