Appeal from the 314th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2017-04361J
consists of Justices Christopher, Bourliot, and Zimmerer.
accelerated appeal arises from a final decree 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 Anna. The parents are B.C.J.-M. (Mother) and
J.D.M. (Father). The trial court terminated both
parents' rights and appointed the Texas Department of
Family and Protective Services (the Department) to be
Anna's managing conservator. Only Mother appeals.
appeal, Mother challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to
support termination. We conclude legally and factually
sufficient evidence supports the trial court's findings
that (1) Mother had a parent-child relationship terminated
with respect to another child based on a finding that
Mother's conduct endangered that child; and (2)
termination of Mother's parental rights is in Anna's
best interest. Therefore, we affirm the trial court's
Mother and Anna tested positive for cocaine when Anna was
born in September 2017 at 34 weeks' gestation. This case
arises out of the referral the Department received regarding
those drug test results.
has two older children: Maya, who was a teenager when Anna
was born, and Andrew, who was four years old and already
under Department care. Due to the pending case about Andrew,
the Department knew Mother and Father both abused drugs and
had a history of domestic violence, with Mother as the
aggressor. The Department believed neither Mother, Father,
nor any family member could protect Anna. Mother and Father
did not identify possible placements when asked.
Department formally removed Anna from her parents' care
when she was five days old and filed this suit the same day.
Following a full adversary hearing, the trial court signed an
order requiring Mother to comply with any family service plan
created for her by the Department. The service plan would
identify the goals she needed to achieve and tasks and
services she needed to complete before Anna could be placed
in her care.
was held at the end of October 2018. The testifying witnesses
relevant to this appeal were Department caseworker Sabrina
Blaylock, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Barbara
Brennen, Mother, and Anna's paternal grandmother.
Evidence about Mother
record contains drug test results for Mother dating back to
September 2013, just over five years before trial. From that
time through February 2014, Mother tested negative.
next results in the record are from December 2016, at which
time she tested positive for cocaine, cocaine metabolite, and
marijuana metabolite. No evidence was offered to interpret
her test results, though testimony from Blaylock suggests her
levels were high. Two months later, she again tested
positive for cocaine, cocaine metabolite, and marijuana
metabolite, as well as marijuana and
methamphetamines. She failed to appear for her tests in
April 2017 and July 2017; her failures to appear are
considered positive results under Department policy.
was not tested again until she gave birth to Anna in
September 2017. Medical records state both she and Anna
tested positive on a cocaine screen but further testing would
be necessary. Mother reportedly admitted to a Department
caseworker that she would be positive for marijuana if
missed another scheduled drug test when Anna was nearly a
month old. Three weeks later, Mother tested positive for
cocaine, cocaine metabolite, marijuana metabolite, and
admitted at trial that she previously had a drug problem but
insisted she was sober and committed to remaining sober.
record contains 12 judgments of conviction, though Mother
admitted to being arrested "18 [or] 19" times. Her
criminal history in the record began in 2006. Early that
year, she pleaded guilty to possession of less than one gram
of cocaine. The criminal court deferred adjudication and
placed her on community supervision for two years. Just six
months later, the court adjudicated her guilty because she
violated the terms of her community supervision by engaging
in illegal activity- specifically, prostitution and failing
to identify herself to a police officer. She was sentenced to
nine months' confinement in jail for the possession
charge and 10 days' confinement each for prostitution and
failure to identify herself. About a year later, she pleaded
guilty to criminal trespass. She was sentenced to serve 15
days in jail.
further criminal activity is noted until the spring of 2009,
when she followed the same pattern she had in 2006. She
pleaded guilty to possession of less than one gram of
cocaine, was placed on deferred adjudication community
supervision for two years, violated her community supervision
a year later, and was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to
eight months' incarceration. Between May 2010 and
December 2011, she pleaded guilty four times to prostitution;
her sentences ranged from 30 days to one year in jail. A
criminal court sentenced her to 30 days' confinement for
possession of zero to two ounces of marijuana in May 2011.
appeared to refrain from criminal activity until the summer
of 2017, at which time she allegedly assaulted Father. She
pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve 30 days in jail. In
August 2018, just 10 weeks before trial in this case, she was
arrested for delivery of between one and four grams of
cocaine. Mother again pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90
history with the Department reportedly began in 2013. We
presume that investigation involved Maya, because Andrew was
not born until 2014. Mother completed the services the
Department requested in connection with that case.
Department received another referral about Mother when Andrew
was born in April 2014. She and Andrew both tested positive
for marijuana at his birth. From the time Andrew was 18
months to two and a half years old, Mother was reported three
times to the Department. The first referral alleged
neglectful supervision due to Mother's physical assault
of Father while Father was holding Andrew. The Department
could not contact the parents; relatives allegedly told the
investigator that Mother and Father were actively avoiding
the Department. The second referral, made shortly after
Andrew turned two, alleged physical abuse and was ruled out.
The third referral again alleged neglectful supervision of
Andrew due to Mother's ongoing drug use and her
irresponsible behavior of prostitution and assault. The
Department found reason to believe the allegations in the
Department filed suit for termination, protection, and
conservatorship regarding Andrew in January 2017. Following a
bench trial in January 2018, the trial court terminated the
parent-child relationship between Mother and Andrew on
several bases. The bases relevant to this appeal were
subsections E (endangerment) and N (constructive abandonment)
of section 161.001(b)(1) of the Family Code. The decree for
termination, a certified copy of which was admitted into
evidence and is included in the appellate record, states in
[T]he Court findings by clear and convincing evidence that
engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the child with persons
who engaged in conduct which endangers the physical or
emotional well-being of the child, pursuant to ...