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In re D.G.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo

July 31, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF D.G. AND A.G., CHILDREN

          On Appeal from the 140th District Court Lubbock County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016-520, 233, Honorable Kara L. Darnell, Associate Judge Presiding

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JUDY C. PARKER, JUSTICE

         "Val"[1] appeals the trial court's order terminating her parental rights to her children, "D.G." and "A.G." Appointed counsel for Val has filed an Anders[2] brief in support of a motion to withdraw. Finding no arguable grounds for appeal, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Background

         In 2016, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services became involved with D.G. and A.G. due to allegations that Val allowed her sixteen-year-old boyfriend to have sex with one of her other children. As a result of that investigation, the Department placed D.G. and A.G. with Larry and he filed suit for custody. Ultimately, in August of 2017, Larry and Val were appointed as joint managing conservators of D.G. and A.G. Larry was designated as the conservator with the right to determine the primary residence of D.G. and A.G., while Val was ordered to pay child support and given a standard possession order.

         In February 2018, the Department became involved once again. This time, the allegations alleged the neglectful supervision of D.G. and A.G. by Larry. It was reported that Larry and his sister smoked crack cocaine in a closed bedroom while D.G. and A.G. were in the living room. It was also reported that Larry was selling his food stamps and that D.G. and A.G. "looked like orphans." During the Department's investigation, Larry admitted to illegal drug use and tested positive for methamphetamine and cocaine. Val has had minimal contact with D.G. and A.G. since the sexual abuse allegations were investigated in 2016, and the Department was unable to locate her. D.G. and A.G. were removed from Larry's care and placed with their paternal grandparents.

         In April, the Department filed its petition for protection, conservatorship, and termination of the parental rights of Val and Larry and scheduled an adversary hearing. Val did not appear at the hearing and did not participate in the case.

         The Department developed a family service plan for Val and, over the next several months, continued its efforts to locate Val. Department caseworker Dominica Castillo testified that she located two possible addresses for Val from previous Department investigations. In April, Castillo went to an address at 1118 66th Street where Val had lived with her mother. A lady answered the door and told Castillo that Val did not live there. In May and June, Castillo went to 5525 4th Street, Apartment #12, but no one answered the door. Castillo called a telephone number for Val and left a voicemail message informing Val of Castillo's role in the case and requesting that Val contact her. Later, Val called the Department and left a voicemail message for Castillo. Castillo returned the call, but Val did not answer the phone.

         Castillo sent certified and non-certified letters to the 4th Street address in July, August, and September. None of these letters were returned. The Department provided both of these addresses to the Lubbock County Sheriff's Office, but their attempts to serve Val at the 4th Street and 66th Street locations were not successful.

         In August, Castillo learned that Val recently used the 4th Street address when she renewed her Medicaid and food stamps. The Department, once again, gave this address to the Sheriff's office, but service on Val was unsuccessful.

         The paternal grandmother gave Castillo information that Val was working at the Murphy USA gas station on 4th Street and that address was also provided to the Sheriff's office, but they were not able to serve her at that address. In September, Castillo sent a letter to Val at the 4th Street address enclosing Val's plan of service and to let Val know that she would be receiving a new caseworker, Ke'Ondra Heckard.

         Heckard also testified to her efforts to locate Val. Heckard called Murphy USA but no one would confirm that Val worked there. Heckard also called the phone number the Department had for Val and drove to the apartment on 4th Street, but no one answered the door.

         After four attempts at personal service, the Department decided to serve Val by publication. Heckard prepared an affidavit detailing the diligence used to locate Val. Based on this affidavit, the trial court authorized service ...


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