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In re G.C.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

May 9, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF G.C., A CHILD

          On Appeal from the 314th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2017-03667J

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Jewell and Bourliot.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Kevin Jewell Justice.

         Appellant J.C. ("Father") appeals the trial court's final decree terminating his parental rights and appointing the Department of Family and Protective Services as sole managing conservator of his child G.C. ("Gloria").[1] The trial court terminated Father's parental rights on predicate grounds of endangerment and failure to complete a family service plan. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(E) and (O). The trial court further found that termination of Father's rights was in the child's best interest. On appeal, 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 Gloria's best interest. Father further challenges the appointment of the Department as Gloria's managing conservator. Because we conclude the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support the trial court's findings, we affirm the decree of termination.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Pretrial Proceedings

         1. The initial referral and investigation

         Gloria was born very prematurely on January 30, 2017, at 22.6 weeks' gestation, and weighed only one and one-half pounds. At Gloria's birth, the Department received a referral, which alleged that Gloria's mother S.J.J. ("Mother") frequently used methamphetamine while pregnant with Gloria. Mother tested positive for methamphetamine at Gloria's birth. Doctors placed Gloria in the neonatal intensive care unit, where Gloria's survival required her use of a breathing tube.

         During the Department's investigation, Mother admitted using "crystal meth for as long as [she] could remember." Mother disclosed that she had been unsuccessful in prior attempts at substance-abuse treatment. Mother denied knowledge of her pregnancy until she was admitted to the hospital and gave birth. Previously, Mother's parental rights to another child had been terminated, and the decree in the prior case included a finding of endangerment.

         The Department's investigation confirmed that Gloria's urine test was negative for drugs at birth. Both parents reported they were living in "campers" on Mother's sister's property. Father admitted to the investigator that he had used methamphetamine "off and on," but as of Gloria's birth, Father had stopped using methamphetamine and stated he would "try" not to use drugs going forward, claiming that "it's not a habit." Both parents tested positive for methamphetamine in hair-follicle and urine analyses.

         Three months after Gloria's birth, Father tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine in a hair-follicle test, but Father's urine test was negative for those drugs. While Gloria remained in the hospital, Department efforts to contact Mother were unsuccessful. The hospital was unable to obtain consent for Gloria's necessary medical treatment because it could not locate either parent. The investigator noted that although Father "appeared to be in the picture and somewhat cooperative," he had recently tested positive for methamphetamine and his paternity had not been established.

         2. Father's criminal history

         Father's criminal history dated back to 1990 and is listed in the removal affidavit as follows:

Offense

Date

Disposition

Criminal mischief

9/24/1990

2 years' confinement

Possession of marijuana

12/11/2004

30 days' confinement

Failure to identify giving false information

12/27/2005

30 days' confinement

Evading arrest or detention with a vehicle with a previous conviction

3/10/2006

90 days' confinement

Driving while intoxicated

4/2/2006

60 days' confinement

Possession of marijuana

1/3/2007

20 days' confinement

Driving while license invalid

5/5/2008

30 days' confinement

Assault causing bodily injury to a family member

6/30/2008

60 days' confinement

Deadly conduct

2/15/10

5 days' confinement

         3. Family service plan

         Father's family service plan noted the reasons for Gloria's removal, and stated that the Department's goal was that Gloria grow up in a home free of abuse and "full of love, nurturing, safety, acceptance and protection." The plan noted that Father appeared to lack knowledge of Gloria's medical condition and its severity. Gloria required special nutrition care, including a feeding tube. Father had supported Gloria's basic needs while she was in the hospital but also tested positive for methamphetamine after her birth. The plan listed behavioral changes required of Father to reduce risk to Gloria. The plan required Father to:

• Understand the serious nature of the situation that placed the child in harm's way;
• Learn and demonstrate an understanding and be able to provide for the special needs of the child through counseling/therapeutic services;
• Demonstrate the ability to protect the child from future abuse or neglect and show concern for the future safety of the child;
• Demonstrate an ability to change his habits of drug use that resulted in abuse or neglect; and
• Maintain a safe and stable home environment that involves no family violence.

         The plan then included tasks for Father to complete, including:

• Visitation with Gloria;
• Participate in parenting classes;
• Maintain legal employment;
• Complete a substance abuse assessment and follow all recommendations;
• Complete a psychosocial assessment and follow all recommendations;
• Submit to random urine analysis requiring negative results and noting that a failure to submit to random analysis will be considered a positive result;
• Sign a release of information in which all services are performed so results can be ...

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