IN THE INTEREST OF E.C.A. AND A.A.G., MINOR CHILDREN
Appeal from the 314th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2016-01847J
consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Higley and
RADACK, CHIEF JUSTICE
accelerated appeal, appellant, J.I.A. ("Mother"),
challenges the trial court's decree terminating her
parental rights to her minor children, E.C.A. and A.A.G. In
one issue, Mother argues that the evidence is legally and
factually insufficient to support the finding that
termination of her parental rights was in the best interest
of her children under Texas Family Code section
2017, the trial court terminated Mother's parental rights
to her children, E.C.A. and A.A.G. Mother appealed to this
Court, and, on December 28, 2017, we held that the evidence
supported the predicate finding, but the evidence was
factually insufficient to support the finding that
termination of Mother's parental rights was in the best
interests of her children. See In the Interest of E.C.A.
and A.A.G., No. 01-17-00623-CV, 2017 WL 6759198, at *13
(Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] Dec. 28, 2017, no pet.) (mem.
op.). We reversed the portion of the judgment that terminated
Mother's parental rights, affirmed the remainder of the
judgment, and remanded the case for a new trial. See
id. at *14.
remand, the Department of Family and Protective Services
("DFPS") sought again to terminate Mother's
parental rights. At the second trial, the trial court
admitted DFPS's removal affidavit which stated,
On 5/23/2015, [DFPS] received a referral involving [Mother]
and her two sons, [A.G.] and [E.C.A.]. The referral indicated
a concern that the children have been physically neglected by
the mother. It was reported that the children appeared
"pale and weak." The children had red, peeling
rashes upon their arms and legs. Both children had diaper
rashes because [Mother] left them in the same diapers all
day. The rashes upon the arms and legs of the children were
suspected to have been caused by bed bugs. The children were
not believed to be showing visible signs of malnutrition and
or starvation, and have no apparent injuries. It is reported
that the mother only feeds the children milk and fruit punch
and sometimes the milk is old. The home was unclean, it
smells like urine, and the couch is allegedly soaked in
urine. The children walked around the home barefoot, and had
black feet. The mother left blunts rolled from synthetic
marijuana within reach of the children. The mother was
believed to be under the influence of synthetic marijuana
while caring for the children, but it is unknown if she used
[it] in the presence of the children.
Trial-October 9, 2018
retrial, four witnesses testified: Brittany Johnson, the CPS
caseworker; Sara Strom, the CASA Volunteer assigned by Child
Advocates; Bruce Jefferies, an employee of National Screening
Center; and Mother.
testified that the case against Mother started after they
received a call on May 23, 2015, alleging neglectful
supervision, drug usage, and neglectful care of the children.
Johnson agreed that the call indicated the home was dirty and
smelled of urine, the children had diaper rash, the children
were walking around barefoot with black feet, and Mother had
blunts in her home. Johnson agreed that when DFPS interviewed
Mother, she admitted to synthetic marijuana use. After the
children were put in a parent-child safety placement, DFPS
asked Mother to get drug tested but Mother would not go.
Johnson recalled that one child was placed with the paternal
grandparents, but after discovering that the paternal
grandparents allowed Mother and Father to live in the
home when they were not supposed to and because they allowed
some domestic violence between the two parents, DFPS removed
the child and placed the child with the maternal grandparent.
Johnson testified that because Mother was not making progress
on family reunification, DFPS filed this case. Johnson agreed
that Mother tested positive for drugs on May 17, 2016.
Johnson also agreed that Mother did not complete her family
service plan when the case was tried the first time because
"[s]he had failed to complete individual counseling and
to maintain visiting with the children per our family plan of
service for her remaining contact."
testified that the children have been in the current foster
home since January 2018, the adoptive foster placement is
meeting all of the children's physical and emotional
needs, and the new foster home is willing to adopt all of the
children.Johnson testified that it is in the
children's best interest to stay in the placement that
they are in because it is "safe, it's stable and
they are free of any harm of physical abuse."
has become aware that Mother is having contact with one of
the child's fathers whose parental rights were terminated
after the first trial in 2017. She agreed that Father has a
long criminal history and a retaliation charge against Mother
due to hitting Mother several times on September 21, 2018.
Johnson agreed that Mother bringing Father back into her life
when he has no interest in the children is a "major
concern." Johnson identified a picture from Facebook
that depicted Mother and Father sharing a kiss in September
2018. Johnson testified that the picture occurred 10 days
before Father picked up a "retaliation charge" for
hitting Mother. Johnson agreed that Father appearing in
social media with Mother in the last month shows that he is
still hanging around and that he is a danger to the children
and to the Mother. Johnson agreed that Mother has bad
judgment and an inability to properly protect the children by
letting Father back into her life after assaulting her again.
further agreed that after the first trial, she required
Mother to take a psychosocial evaluation, but that Mother had
not done it yet because Mother
[R]everted back to her original ways, by saying she
wasn't getting the phone calls or the messages that were
left for her to schedule the appointments. So I took it upon
myself to contact them and make-and give her the number as
well to contact them and tell them both to follow up with me.
While I did that, she was able to schedule an appointment,
which was September the 20th, and that's when the issue
with the psychosocial and the substance abuse assessment
happens where it was ended.
agreed that Mother was required to complete a drug and
alcohol evaluation too but that it ended because Mother
"was not truthful about her past or current drug
cross-examination, Johnson admitted that since the last
trial, Mother completed the family service plan. Johnson also
testified that DFPS put Mother on another parenting plan that
started in August 2018. When asked if Mother had been
cooperating and doing what was requested, Johnson answered,
"Somewhat, yes." Johnson stated that Mother had not
completed her psychosocial evaluation and that her drug
assessment was started but it ended in the middle of the
session because Mother was being untruthful. Johnson agreed
that Mother asked for visits with her children and that
Mother has had visits with her children, twice a month.
Mother had arrived to all of the visits except one and all of
the visits had gone well except for one visit where Mother
was not able to control the children and Mother "wanted
assistance with parenting. She wanted someone to step in and
say-and tell the boys to, you know, calm down or redirect the
children instead of her doing so." Johnson agreed that
the children were acting typical of young boys when they were
wrestling, running around, and jumping and that Mother was
trying to "recuperate the children" by asking for
visitation and to be placed back on a parenting plan. Johnson
recalled that Mother was supposed to have supervised
visitation but that she had unsupervised visitation from
January to May 2017. During these times of unsupervised
visitation, Johnson agreed that the children were not abused.
also recalled a previous incident that occurred before the
termination. Johnson testified that Mother got into a
physical altercation with a 15-year-old pregnant teenager,
who was apparently Father's girlfriend. Johnson testified
that Mother was charged but that she only received a citation
for the altercation. Johnson agreed that Mother was pregnant
when she tested positive for cocaine in May 2016, but after
her daughter was born and Mother was tested again, she did
not test positive.
stated that she has seen Mother's home on two occasions
and she described it as clean. Johnson agreed that Mother
followed the recommendation of DFPS when she got an apartment
by herself and that she has kept gainful employment at a tax
preparation business. Johnson agreed that Mother's work
and home situation is stable.
agreed that Father has not caused any danger to the children,
but he has caused danger to Mother. Johnson explained that
she did not think it was in the best interest of the children
to have Mother in their lives because "she has not shown
the ability to parent." Johnson disagreed that Mother
was working and doing everything that has been requested by
DFPS because Mother did not separate from Father even though
she agreed to do so.
Strom testified that she is familiar with Mother and the
children because she has been on the case since the
beginning. Strom believes the current placement is
"stable, good for the children and could bring [an]
excellent future for them." Strom described Mother's
current home as a "one room apartment with full
bedroom." She did not observe Father at the apartment
but she said CPS did. Strom testified that Child Advocates
believes that Mother's parental rights should be
terminated because "the mother has shown not good-to
keep ahead of her own interest. And she had be[en] in touch
with the father. She's talking about the father as the
man that she loves. And that the father wants to be the
father of her children." Strom agreed that Mother has
allowed Father back into her life.
cross-examination, Strom agreed that Mother's home was
decent. When asked how Father harmed the children, Strom
replied that he has harmed the children by being in jail and
he is not a part of the children's life, he has never
paid child support, and he is abusing the children's
testified that Mother tested positive for cocaine in May 2016
and tested positive a second time on July 31, 2018 for
cocaine and exposure to marijuana. Jefferies explained that
Mother's testing revealed that she was "getting
closer to a level that might indicate weekend usage."
Jefferies also explained that her marijuana testing indicated
"that she was around someone quite often, cause it's
a very high level of exposure. Her hair was saturated with
cross-examination, Jefferies confirmed that Mother did not
consume marijuana but she was exposed to it. He also
clarified that weekend usage means a once-a-week user.
Jefferies also admitted that they had a test taken on January
11 and the result was negative. Jefferies agreed that Mother
did not test positive [for cocaine] for about two years and
one month before the positive result on July 31, 2018.
Jefferies admitted that Mother had 41 negative test results.