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In re B.C.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo

July 30, 2019


          On Appeal from the 316th District Court Hutchinson County, Texas Trial Court No. 43, 460, Honorable James M. Mosley, Presiding

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



         In this accelerated appeal, appellant, Father, seeks reversal of the trial court's judgment terminating his parental rights to his children, B.C. and P.C.[1] Father challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's findings on four predicate grounds and its finding that termination is in the best interest of the children. Because we conclude that the evidence was legally and factually sufficient, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


         In April of 2018, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services became involved with four-year-old B.C. and twenty-two-month-old P.C. after allegations of drug use by Mother, her paramour, and the maternal grandparents were reported to the Department. The report also alleged drug use by the father of the children and that the parents "leave the drugs accessible to the children." As a part of the Department's investigation, drug testing was performed. Mother tested positive for marijuana and her paramour tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. B.C. tested positive for cocaine. The Department obtained an order of emergency protection of B.C. and P.C. and removed them from Mother's care. Shortly after the children were removed, the Department located Father and he was interviewed.

         According to Father, the last time that Mother allowed him to visit B.C. and P.C. was in early February 2018. At the time Father was interviewed, he was unemployed and staying with his mother at her home, but he also stayed at his girlfriend's residence. Father admitted to using marijuana and acknowledged his recent arrest for possession of a controlled substance. The Department requested that Father submit to a drug test and the results were positive for cocaine and marijuana. A visitation schedule was prepared, and Father was permitted to visit with B.C. and P.C. for one hour, once a week, under the Department's supervision.

         Following an adversary hearing, the Department was appointed temporary managing conservator and B.C. and P.C. were placed in a foster home. [2] The court named Mother and Father as possessory conservators and ordered each parent to comply with a service plan developed by the Department. The Department was also ordered to conduct home studies on the homes of the paternal grandmother, a paternal aunt, and the maternal great-grandmother as possible placements for B.C. and P.C.

         The Department developed a separate plan of services for Mother and Father and each plan had a stated goal of reunification with the children. Within a few weeks after the adversary hearing, Mother began attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings and making significant progress toward completing the services outlined in her plan of service. Father, on the other hand, did not participate in any services provided by the Department except for three or four supervised visits with B.C. and P.C. The caseworker testified that she spoke with Father on the telephone and tried to arrange a meeting with Father to review the services in the plan, but the meeting did not take place. The caseworker told Father, "You've got a service plan. You've got to work services." Father's response was, "Okay." The caseworker mailed a copy of Father's plan of service to his mother's home, which is the last place the caseworker knew that Father lived. An order reflects that Father appeared at the status hearing on July 24, 2018. The last contact that Father had with B.C. and P.C. or the Department was in July of 2018.

         The home study on the home of the paternal grandmother was approved. The paternal grandmother indicated during her interview that she wants to keep the children temporarily until they are returned to Mother, but she is willing to keep the children long-term and adopt them if they are unable to be returned to their parents.

         By the end of October 2018, Mother had completed all of her services, and the court returned B.C. and P.C. to Mother's home pursuant to a monitored return order.

         On February 5, 2019, the trial court held a final hearing concerning termination of Father's parental rights to B.C. and P.C. Father did not appear, but his counsel appeared on his behalf. After testimony, the trial court terminated Father's parental rights on the grounds set forth in Texas Family Code section 161.001(b)(1)(B), (C), (N), and (O), and found that termination would be in B.C.'s and P.C.'s best interest. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b) (West Supp. 2018).[3] The court appointed Mother as the managing conservator of B.C. and P.C. and dismissed the Department from the case.

         Standard of Review

         When reviewing the legal sufficiency of the evidence in a termination case, the appellate court should look at all the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's finding "to determine whether a reasonable trier of fact could have formed a firm belief or conviction that its finding was true." In re J.F.C.,96 S.W.3d 256, 266 (Tex. 2002). To give appropriate deference to the factfinder's conclusions, we must assume that the factfinder resolved disputed facts in favor of its finding if a reasonable factfinder could do so. Id. We disregard all evidence that a reasonable factfinder could have disbelieved or found to have been not credible, but we do not disregard undisputed facts. Id. Even evidence that does more than raise surmise or suspicion is not sufficient unless that evidence is capable of producing a firm belief or conviction that the allegation is true. In re K.M.L.,443 S.W.3d 101, 113 (Tex. 2014). If, after conducting a legal sufficiency review, ...

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