Appeal from the 313th District Harris County, Texas Trial
Court Case No. 2017-00333J
consists of Justices Lloyd, Kelly, and Hightower.
RUSSELL LLOYD JUSTICE
appeals from the trial court's judgment terminating her
parental rights to her daughter, A.S. In four issues, L.G.
contends that the evidence is legally and factually
insufficient to support the termination findings under
subsections (D), (E), (N), and (O) of Texas Family Code
section 161.001(b)(1), and the finding that termination of
her parental rights is in the child's best interest. We
December 21, 2016, the Department of Family and Protective
Services received a referral alleging neglectful supervision
of one-year old A.S. following an incident of domestic
violence. The report stated that J.S., A.S.'s father,
threw L.G. against a door and repeatedly punched her in the
stomach. At the time of the incident, A.S. was in the living
room with L.G.'s friend who called the police. J.S. was
arrested for domestic violence.
the investigation of the referral, J.S. told the Department
caseworker that he and L.G. had "used meth." On
January 10, 2017, the Department asked L.G. to take a drug
test. After taking the test, but before being notified of the
results, L.G. gave power of attorney to her mother, S.P.,
because she feared the Department would remove A.S. L.G.
tested positive for marijuana.
told the caseworker that she offered to pay for L.G. to go to
rehab but L.G. refused. S.P. also stated that she kicked L.G.
and J.S. out of her house because of their drug use and the
domestic violence. The Department subsequently learned that
S.P. had prior CPS history and criminal history involving a
DUI, felony endangerment of a child, and driving with a
suspended license, and it removed A.S. from her care.
January 23, 2017, the Department filed an Original Petition
for Protection of a Child for Conservatorship and for
Termination in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.
The trial court signed an order granting the Department
emergency temporary managing conservatorship of A.S. that
February 1, 2017, the trial court granted J.S. community
supervision in connection with his assault of L.G.
February 2, 2017, the trial court held an adversary hearing
at which L.G. and J.S. appeared. The court found that (1)
there was a danger to the physical health or safety of A.S.
caused by an act or failure to act of the person entitled to
possession; (2)an urgent need for A.S.'s protection
requiring the immediate removal of A.S; and (3)
notwithstanding reasonable efforts to eliminate the need for
removal, a substantial risk of continuing danger if the child
returned home. The court continued the Department's
temporary managing conservatorship of A.S. and set a status
hearing for March 21, 2017. The court also ordered L.G. and
J.S. to submit to drug testing. Both parents tested positive
for amphetamine, methamphetamine, and marijuana.
Department created family service plans for L.G. and J.S.
L.G.'s service plan, which reflected that the parents had
a prior open family-based safety services plan shortly after
A.S. was born, noted that L.G. seemed to take the allegations
underlying A.S.'s removal less seriously than the
Department and that she exhibited a lack of attachment to
A.S. The plan also noted that, as of February 21, 2017,
neither parent had contacted the Department regarding
A.S.'s well-being and or appeared at their scheduled
permanency conference on February 16, 2017. The service
plan's stated goals were that L.G. demonstrate (1) an
ability to change the pattern of the behavior that resulted
in the abuse/neglect; (2) an ability to provide basic
necessities for A.S.; and (3) an acceptance of her
responsibility as a parent. L.G.'s plan required her to
(1) maintain monthly contact with her caseworker; (2)
participate in all recommended services, permanency
conferences, family visits, and court hearings; (3) submit to
random urinalysis tests; (4) participate in a drug and
alcohol assessment and follow related recommendations; (5)
participate in parenting classes and domestic violence
classes; (6) maintain stable employment and housing; and (7)
participate in a psychosocial evaluation.
March 21, 2017, the trial court held a status hearing.
Neither L.G. nor J.S. appeared at the hearing. At the
conclusion of the hearing, the trial court signed an order
finding the parents' service plans, with a stated goal of
returning the child, to be reasonable and tailored to address
the specific issues identified by the Department, and the
trial court approved the services plans. The same day, the
trial court ordered L.G. to submit to drug testing. L.G.
tested positive for marijuana, amphetamine, and
18, 2017, the National Screening Center issued a letter
stating that L.G. had been ordered to provide samples for
drug testing but she walked out before the sample could be
collected, which is considered a "refusal/positive
22, 2017, A.S.'s foster parents filed a petition to
intervene in the Department's suit, seeking to adopt A.S.
6, 2017, the trial court conducted a permanency hearing.
Neither L.G. nor J.S. appeared in person. Following the
hearing, the trial court signed an order finding that neither
parent had demonstrated adequate and appropriate compliance
with the service plan. The court's order further stated
that the service plan and/or permanency progress report on
file represented the actions the court required for the
parents to regain custody. The trial court ordered that S.P.
and A.W.P., the maternal grandparents, submit to a home study
to be conducted within two weeks.
December 18, 2017, the trial court revoked J.S.'s
community supervision after it found that he had violated the
terms and conditions of his community supervision by failing
to refrain from engaging in criminal activity and sentenced
him to three years' confinement. On April 23, 2018, L.G.
was arrested for prostitution and possession of a controlled
4, 2018, the Department filed its permanency report with the
trial court. The report stated that L.G. contacted the
Department and said that she would like to work services. As
of the date of the report, L.G. had not started any of the
services on her family service plan and had attended only
three of the six scheduled parent/child visits. The report
noted that on April 24, 2017, L.G. "came into the
agreement with the agency that the primary goal of unrelated
adoption would be in the best interest of [A.S.]." The
report further noted that L.G. "stated that she will
relinquish her rights if she needs to for the best interest
of [A.S.]" and that "if [A.S.] will be adopted she
would like for the current caregivers to do so." The
report stated that A.S. "is doing really well in her
current placement" and "has developed a strong bond
with her current foster family" with whom she was placed
on January 20, 2017. The report also noted that the Wellness
Counseling Center, which administers the required drug
assessments listed in her family plan, had attempted to
contact L.G. eight times.
6, 2018, the court held a permanency hearing at which L.G.
did not appear. The trial court found that L.G. had not
demonstrated adequate and appropriate compliance with her
began on July 9, 2018. Neither L.G. not J.S. appeared. The
intervening parties-the foster parents and A.S.'s
maternal grandparents-advised the court that they had reached
an agreement involving visitation with A.S. in the event that
L.G.'s and J.S.'s parental rights were terminated.
The trial court informed the parents' attorneys that
while they had received information that their clients might
want to relinquish their parental rights to A.S., the trial
court would give them only two weeks to procure those
relinquishments; if they did not, the trial would proceed.
August 7, 2018, the trial resumed. Neither L.G. nor J.S.
appeared. Prior to calling its first witness, the Department
introduced numerous exhibits, which the trial court admitted,
including L.G.'s family service plan, criminal history,
and drug test results.
Riggins, a Department conservatorship caseworker, testified
that A.S. came into the Department's care because of
L.G.'s drug use and domestic violence. Riggins testified
that, once conservatorship began, L.G. and J.S. were
scheduled for drug tests, their family service plans were
created, and their visitation schedules set up. Despite the
Department's multiple attempts to contact L.G. and
mailing her family service plan to her, LG. stopped replying
to all communications from the Department and no longer
attended visitation with A.S. Riggins testified that, in
February 2017, L.G. tested positive for methamphetamine,
marijuana, marijuana metabolite, and amphetamine, and in,
March 2017, she again tested positive for methamphetamine,
marijuana, and marijuana metabolite.
testified that the Department's file did not include any
certificate of completion for any services by L.G. She
testified that although L.G. was initially scheduled for
weekly visits with A.S., the visits were changed to monthly
visits because L.G. had cancelled a majority of them. Riggins
testified that L.G. attended only two of her eight scheduled
visits with A.S. Riggins stated that the Department was
asking the court to terminate L.G.'s parental rights
because she did not complete any of the items of her family
service plan, and she was arrested during the pendency of the
case. She further testified that L.G.' ...