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In re Q.C.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana

August 1, 2019


          Submitted: June 24, 2019

          On Appeal from the 307th District Court Gregg County, Texas Trial Court No. 2018-551-DR

          Before Morriss, C.J., Burgess and Stevens, JJ.



         The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (Department) filed a petition to terminate Kim's parental rights to her children, Quinn and Isabelle.[1] The trial court terminated Kim's parental rights after finding that: (1) she knowingly placed or allowed Quinn and Isabelle to remain in conditions or surroundings which endangered their physical or emotional well-being; (2) she constructively abandoned the children as described in Section 161.001(b)(1)(N) of the Texas Family Code; (3) she failed to comply with the provisions of a court order that specifically established the actions necessary for her to obtain the return of Quinn and Isabelle, as described in Section 161.001(b)(1)(O); (4) she used a controlled substance in a manner that endangered the health or safety of the children as described in Section 161.001(b)(1)(P); and (5) termination of her parental rights was in the children's best interests. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §161.001(b)(1)(D), (N), (O), (P), (b)(2) (Supp.).

         On appeal, Kim challenges only the factual sufficiency supporting the trial court's best-interests finding. We overrule Kim's sole point of error because it is inadequately briefed. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         I. The Evidence at Trial

         Jessica Tullberg, an investigator with the Department, testified that she received reports alleging that Kim was using drugs in front of one-year-old Quinn and eight-month-old Isabelle. Tullberg travelled to Kim's home, asked her about the allegations, and witnessed Kim screaming at Quinn "simply for crying." Kim agreed to take a drug test and place the children with their aunt, Sally, until the test results were returned.

         According to Tullberg, Kim later went to Sally's house to demand the children's return while she was under the influence of a drug. Kim refused Tullberg's request to take "an instant read drug test." However, the test results from the urinalysis concluded on the day of the children's removal proved positive for amphetamines, methamphetamines, benzodiazepines, cocaine, marihuana, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone. Isabelle also tested positive for methamphetamine and cocaine.[2]

         Kemyisha Daniels-Scott, a Department conservatorship worker, testified that she developed a family service plan for Kim, but that Kim failed to make any effort to complete the plan. Daniels-Scott went to the address Kim provided and found the apartment empty with the door open and "window busted out." According to Daniels-Scott, Kim was arrested for criminal trespasses, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of marihuana during the pendency of the case; was regularly "in and out of jail"; and was incarcerated at the time of the final hearing. Daniels-Scott testified that Kim never provided proof that she had a job or could financially care for the children. Although Kim did not participate in visits provided through the Department, she visited the children at Sally's home.

         Daniels-Scott and Brook Davis, the Court Appointed Special Advocate for the children, testified that Quinn and Isabelle were thriving in Sally's home and were bonded to her. Daniels-Scott and Davis believed that termination of Kim's parental rights was in the children's best interests because they would have a chance to "grow up in a drug-free home." The Department's plan was for Sally to adopt the children.

         On the advice of her attorney, Kim decided not to testify because her cross-examination could affect her pending criminal case. However, she made a statement to the trial court that she was twenty-one years old and was "still raising [her]self amidst . . . raising [her] two little girls." Kim told the trial court that she wanted to place the children with another family member and agreed that doing so would be in the children's best interests.

         II. Kim Does Not Challenge the Statutory Grounds Supporting Termination of Her Parental Rights

         "The natural right existing between parents and their children is of constitutional dimensions." Holick v. Smith, 685 S.W.2d 18, 20 (Tex. 1985). Indeed, parents have a fundamental right to make decisions concerning "the care, custody, and control of their children." Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000). "Because the termination of parental rights implicates fundamental interests, a higher standard of proof-clear and convincing evidence-is required at trial." In re A.B., 437 S.W.3d 498, 502 (Tex. 2014). This Court is therefore required to "engage in an exacting review of the entire record to determine if the evidence is . . . sufficient to support the termination of parental rights." Id. at 500. "[I]nvoluntary termination statutes are ...

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