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In re A.C.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo

June 27, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.C., AKA A.A., A CHILD

          On Appeal from County Court at Law Number 2 Potter County, Texas Trial Court No. 89, 857-2-FM; Honorable Carry Baker, Presiding

          Before QUINN, C.J., and PIRTLE, and PARKER, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PATRICK A. PIRTLE JUSTICE

         Appellant, S.A., appeals from the trial court's order terminating her parental rights to her daughter, A.C. aka A.A.[1] By the trial court's order, A.C.'s father, C.C., was appointed permanent managing conservator and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services was dismissed from the case. In presenting this appeal, appointed counsel has filed an Anders[2] brief in support of a motion to withdraw. We affirm.

         Background

         The family has a history with the Department dating back to 2012 when S.A. was suspected of physically abusing A.C. as an infant. Other allegations over the years included S.A.'s methamphetamine use, physical abuse, medical neglect, and neglectful supervision. In March 2017, S.A. was placed on deferred adjudication community supervision for a term of two years for possession of a controlled substance.

         In April 2017, when A.C. was living with C.C., allegations of "overly physical" corporal punishment by him were reported to the Department.[3] A.C. was removed from his care and the court ordered that A.C. be placed with S.A., who was then living with her own grandmother. The grandmother's home was clean and drug-free. However, S.A. began using methamphetamine, had a falling out with her grandmother, and eventually moved in with her mother. At the time, S.A.'s brother was also living at the mother's home.

         According to S.A., while she was at work, her children stayed in daycare. On one occasion, however, she had to leave her children in her mother's care. S.A. was subsequently notified at work that her brother was accused of molesting A.C. The Department removed A.C. and her younger sibling from S.A.'s custody when she admitted to having relapsed in her drug use at that time. As a part of her service plan, S.A. was ordered to complete a substance abuse program.

         After she was released from that program, she was sober for six months before relapsing again by using methamphetamine. This time, the Department moved to proceed to an adjudication of guilt on her possession of controlled substance community supervision. In exchange for her plea of true, the trial court extended the period of her community supervision for an additional year and ordered that the terms of her supervision be amended to include treatment in a Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility (SAFPF), a secure lock-up facility.

         According to the caseworker, the Department expressed concern about whether S.A. could protect A.C. given that she knew her brother was a drug addict whom she knowingly allowed to be around her children. Over objection, the caseworker testified that A.C. had made an outcry to her that her uncle had molested her while they were living in her grandmother's home. When the children were removed based on A.C.'s outcry, the Department found no appropriate caregivers and A.C. was placed in a foster home in Lubbock. Based on the most recent allegations, the Department generated revised family service plans for both S.A. and C.C.

         C.C. completed his services and cooperated with the Department. He had recently married, and his wife wanted to adopt A.C. The court ordered that A.C. live with her father pursuant to a monitored return. The caseworker visited the home weekly to observe A.C. and he reported that she was happy living with her father and new stepmother.

         Given the prolonged history of the case and the goal of permanency for the child, the Department proceeded to terminate S.A.'s parental rights while leaving C.C.'s rights intact. During the final hearing, the caseworker testified that despite knowing about her brother's drug use and the allegations of sexual abuse, she knowingly left her children in his care and possession anyway.

         The caseworker further testified that during the course of the case, C.C. had matured, completed all his services, was promoted at his job, and had married. He had improved as a parent and was emotionally supportive to A.C. He described A.C. as having "blossomed." Her behavior had improved, and she was making good grades, participating in activities, and was enjoying being "a normal child." Based on the caseworker's observations of A.C. with her father and stepmother, he opined A.C. was "very bonded" and "warm" and that their household was a "normal family situation."

         In contrast, there was testimony by the caseworker that visits and contact between A.C. and her mother caused A.C. long-term stress and trauma. No-shows for visits by S.A. also upset A.C. Based upon all of these factors, the caseworker recommended that S.A.'s parental rights be terminated and that C.C. be named permanent managing conservator. He ...


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