Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
IN THE INTEREST OF M.F. AND L.B., CHILDREN
Appeal from the 354th Judicial District Court Hunt County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. 85, 906
Justices Myers, Osborne, and Nowell
A. NOWELL JUSTICE
an appeal from an order terminating the parental rights of
Mother to her children, M.F. and L.B. Mother argues the
evidence at trial was legally and factually insufficient to
support a finding that termination of her parental rights was
in the best interest of the children. We affirm the trial
is the mother of both children. Father is Mother's
ex-husband and the biological father of M.F. The trial court
terminated the parental rights of L.B.'s biological
father, but he does not appeal that order. M.F. was eleven
years old and L.B. was six years old at the time of trial.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
(Department) filed the petition for protection of a child on
March 26, 2018. Based on the affidavit filed in support of
the petition, the Department alleged there was a continuing
danger to the physical health or safety of the children if
returned to the parents. The affidavit indicates the children
were living with their maternal great grandmother because it
was not safe at Mother's house. M.F. reported that people
use drugs and steal things at Mother's house. M.F.
claimed that Mother threw him across the room while she was
on drugs. M.F. later denied ever saying anyone abused him.
However, he stated in his forensic interview that he does not
live with Mother because she is addicted to drugs, and he
feels unsafe with his mother. After further investigation and
contact with Mother, the Department removed the children on
March 22, 2018.
the documents admitted at trial is the family service plan.
It indicates the Department and the maternal grandparents
were concerned that Mother will continue using illegal drugs
and alcohol and will be unable to look after the children
properly, the children could have access to the illegal drugs
and alcohol in the home, and Mother will "yell at or
physically harm (or chase the children with a bat) the
children or other family members resulting in the children
becoming hurt or killed." The plan states the Department
is concerned that Mother has unaddressed mental health issues
and times of instability which could lead to the
children's needs going unmet or to their injury or death.
The plan also states that Mother told investigators she did
nothing wrong and did not agree to work on services.
service plan for reunification of Mother and the children
required her to refrain from using drugs and alcohol, submit
to random drug testing, submit to and follow the
recommendations of a drug assessment, attend NA/AA meetings
at least three hours a week, complete outpatient drug
treatment classes, and prepare a written relapse plan upon
completion of all drug and alcohol services. Mother was also
required to complete and follow the recommendations of
psychological and psychosocial assessments. She was required
to complete individual counseling sessions to address the
specific issues that led to the removal of the children.
Other services required of Mother were parenting classes,
domestic violence counseling, and anger management classes.
Mother was required to maintain steady employment and safe,
stable, and appropriate housing. The plan required Mother to
provide proof of successful completion of these services to
the Department. It also required Mother to attend all
scheduled visits with the children, but provided that visits
would be suspended in the event of a positive drug test until
the parent provided a negative hair follicle drug test more
than thirty days after the failed test.
trial court's temporary orders added the requirement for
Mother to complete a ninety-day inpatient drug treatment
program and a Batterer's Intervention and Prevention
Program and submit proof of completion of the programs to the
Department. The temporary orders also prohibited Mother from
communicating directly, in person, by phone, email, text, or
social media with Father and his wife.
case proceeded to a bench trial on February 7, 2019. Cori
Holden, a former caseworker for the Department, testified
Mother failed to complete the services made available to her.
Holden testified Mother told her she did not attend NA/AA
meetings, did not complete a psychological evaluation,
parenting classes, or anger management. Mother later said she
had not completed any services. Mother never provided proof
of successful completion of services as required by the
service plan. Holden testified that Mother did not attend
some court-ordered drug tests.
Mother attempted to complete the inpatient drug treatment at
Nexus and other facilities, she left after a few days due to
extreme anxiety. Holden testified that treatment centers like
Nexus are equipped to address issues like anxiety. Holden did
not consider Mother's reason for leaving the facility a
Green, the current caseworker, testified that Mother told
Green shortly before trial that she had completed all her
services, but had not turned in any documents. Green told her
to provide the documents to the Department as soon as
possible before trial and to make certain her attorney knew
about the documents and had copies. Green confirmed the
Department never received any proof that Mother completed the
Cuba, a CASA volunteer, observed three visits between Mother
and the children. The third visit was terminated early by the
Department caseworker. Cuba observed that visit and stated:
"I did not observe any mature parenting during that
visit. Specifically, she was inciting sullen, angry behavior
from [M.F.] towards his dad. And, at the same time, ignoring
[L.B.] who was getting more and more upset as the visit
progressed." Mother "raised her voice and yelled
towards the screen, at the investigative caseworker, after
she had received one warning that the visit may have to be
terminated." The visit was terminated after Mother
violated the warning.
testified that visitation was stopped based on the
court's policy of suspending visitation due to drug
tests. Visits can be reinstated based on further drug
testing. The Department sent Mother for additional drug
tests, but her visitation was not reinstated. Green testified
that Mother and her preacher dropped off photo albums for the
children, but that was the only gift or card Mother provided
for the children during her time on the case. ...