Appeal from the 310th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2018-00408J
consists of Justices Christopher, Bourliot, and Zimmerer.
FRANCES BOURLIOT JUSTICE.
(Father) appeals from a final decree terminating his parental
rights and appointing the Department of Family and Protective
Services (the Department) as sole managing conservator of his
son, A.G. (Alex). On appeal, Father challenges the legal and
factual sufficiency of the evidence to support (1) the
predicate grounds under which his parental rights were
terminated and (2) the finding that termination was in
Alex's best interest. We affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
The Department of Family and Protective Services
(Mother) gave birth to Alex in late October 2017. Two months
after his birth, the Department received notification that
Mother was caring for Alex while under the influence of
drugs. At that time, the Department had already removed
Mother's three older children from her
custody. It took the Department three weeks to make
contact with Mother after receiving the initial notification
because Mother was not answering her telephone and the
Department did not have a reliable address for the family.
Once the Department was finally able to reach the family, the
Department discovered they were staying at the Baytown Inn
and did not have a permanent residence. Father told the
Department investigator that they had been moving back and
forth in between the hotel and his "homeboy's"
house. Neither parent had stable employment. The couple
admitted they had not taken Alex for any doctor's visits
since they moved from Port Arthur where Alex was born.
informed investigators that she and Father had been in a
committed relationship for three years. Father said that he
did not have any mental health or medical issues. However,
Father said he was taking norcos for back pain, but was
unable to provide the prescription. Father informed the
investigator that he had other children who were living with
their mother outside of Texas.
Department concluded it was necessary to remove Alex from his
parents' care due to the unstable living conditions. The
Department filed a petition requesting termination of
Mother's and Father's parental rights. The trial
court appointed the Department as Alex's temporary
managing conservator and placed Alex in a foster home. The
trial court ordered Father to complete a family service plan,
which included Father undergoing psychological evaluations,
submitting to random drug test, refraining from participating
in illegal activities, and acquiring and maintaining housing
that was stable for more than six months.
Jeffries of the National Screening Center testified as an
expert in drug testing results. Jeffries reviewed
Father's drug test results dating back to February 2018.
Father's first drug test returned positive for cocaine,
methamphetamine, and marijuana on the outside of his hair.
Jeffries explained that the levels of marijuana on the
outside of Father's hair were "extremely high,"
indicating that he was living in an environment "that is
small in nature where the air is full of THC." Jeffries
confirmed that Father's outside hair exposure dated back
to shortly before Alex was born and the following months.
Jeffries further testified that Father's April 2018 drug
test results returned positive for cocaine in his urine.
Jeffries confirmed that Father must have still been using
cocaine after Alex was removed from his care due to the
timing of the testing. Hair from Father's underarm was
also tested in April 2018, and those test results came back
positive for methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana on the
inside and outside of the hair. In July 2018, Father's
urine tests returned negative, but his underarm hair test
came back positive for cocaine and marijuana on the inside
and outside of the hair. Jeffries explained that underarm
hair can show usage as far as four to six months back.
Jeffries further testified, that the amount of cocaine in
Father's hair test results diminished significantly
between the April and July tests. However, Jeffries explained
that Father's initial amounts of cocaine were "off
the charts." According to Jeffries, Father's cocaine
amounts indicated at least daily use. Jeffries explained that
cocaine usage at that level can damage the right side of a
person's heart and cause a heart attack even years after
that person has stopped using.
the Department's caseworker, Lakeela Caraway, testified
that she has been working with Mother since the
Department's investigation into Mother's three other
children began. Caraway testified that she reviewed the
service plan with Father and confirmed that he understood it.
Father's service plan required him to complete drug
counseling services. Caraway explained that the only portion
of that requirement that Father completed was a drug
assessment and drug test, which returned positive for
cocaine. Caraway testified that the court did not allow for
visitation between Father and Alex because of the positive
drug test results. According to Caraway, Father only
contacted her two times between when Alex was removed and
trial-approximately eight months. Nor did Father provide any
gifts or financial support for Alex while he was in the
Department's custody. Upon questioning, Caraway confirmed
that Father's attorney provided her with a copy of a
paycheck stub from Father's employment at Pizza Hut.
explained that Alex was doing very well in an adoptive foster
home, despite not hitting his developmental milestone of
crawling by the age of one. According to Caraway, Alex's
foster parents ensure he makes all his doctor's
appointments. Caraway further explained that Alex is very
spoiled by his foster parents because he is the only child in
the home. The foster parents also take Alex to visit his
biological siblings and intend to adopt Alex. Caraway
testified that she believes it is in Alex's best interest
to terminate Father's parental rights based on his
"excessive" drug use, his failure to remove Alex
from a home where drug use was present, and his failure to
complete his family service plan.
Mother testified on her own behalf. Mother said she did not
use drugs while she was pregnant, nor did she use drugs after
she brought Alex home from the hospital. According to Mother,
the last time she used marijuana was two months prior to
trial. She testified that the last time she used cocaine was
"probably after [her other] child was taken from
Father testified. Father explained that he was unable to
complete much of his service plan because he had vehicle
problems that he could not afford to have repaired. Father
testified that he has been working to attain sobriety and
believed he would test negative for illegal substances if he
was tested that day.
Father's testimony, the court announced it was
terminating both Mother's and Father's parental
rights to Alex. As to Father, the trial court terminated on
the predicate grounds found in Family Code sections
161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (N), and (O). The trial court further
found that termination of Father's parental rights was in
Alex's best interest. The trial court signed a final