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In re S.J.B.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont

August 8, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF S.J.B. AND A.B.

          Submitted on May 21, 2019

          On Appeal from the 88th District Court Hardin County, Texas Trial Cause No. 58415

          Before McKeithen, C.J., Horton and Johnson, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STEVE MCKEITHEN, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         Appellants J.B. and M.L.[1], the father and mother of the minor children S.J.B. and A.B., appeal the trial court's order terminating their parental rights after a bench trial. In four issues, appellants challenge the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting the findings that they (1) allowed the children to remain in conditions or surroundings that endangered their physical or emotional wellbeing; (2) engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the children with persons who engaged in conduct that endangered their physical or emotional wellbeing; (3) failed to comply with the provisions of a court order; and (4) that termination was in the best interest of the children. We affirm the trial court's order terminating appellants' parental rights.

         BACKGROUND

         J.B. testified that the children were removed from his care due to him failing a drug test for methamphetamine and "[b]ad living conditions[, ]" and he explained that he "wasn't taking care of things." J.B. admitted that he had a problem with methamphetamine and alcohol and had been to rehabilitation. In addition, J.B. admitted that he had consumed alcohol since leaving rehabilitation. J.B. described alcohol as his "preferred drug of choice." J.B. explained that although his service plan required him to attend AA or NA meetings, he had not done so.

         According to J.B., when the children were removed, he had been living with M.L., her boyfriend, and the children. When the children were removed, J.B. received a service plan, and he testified that "quite a few" months went by before he began to work on the service plan. At the time of trial, J.B. resided with his mother, and he usually relied upon his mother for transportation. When asked where the children would go if the judge decided to return them to his care, J.B. testified, "I don't really have anywhere for them to go." According to J.B., the children could not live with M.L. because M.L. was residing in her sister's home, and her sister did not "want a bunch of people living there." J.B. also explained that he is not currently employed and does not have the financial resources to care for the children.

         Gary Spears, an investigator for the County Attorney's Office, testified that on July 13, 2017, he was sent to the home of M.L. and J.B. regarding a reported assault and "a report about some possible bomb-making materials." Spears wore a body camera when he went to the home, and the video recording from the camera was admitted into evidence and published to the court. The video showed that the home was dirty, cluttered, and in disrepair. Spears explained that he did not find any bombs or bomb-making materials in the home, but he described the home's condition as "pretty bad[]" and stated that he had concerns about the safety of the home. According to Spears, the home was unsafe for the children because it was cluttered, "nasty[, ]" and infested by ants.

         Katheryn Parrott, a supervisor for the Department of Family and Protective Services ("the Department"), testified that she received a report of neglectful supervision of the children on July 14, 2017. Parrott testified that prior to visiting the home of J.B. and M.L., she viewed a video of the home that caused her concern because M.L. appeared to be under the influence and things were "scattered all throughout the home[.]" When Parrott entered the home, she saw a butcher knife on a shelf that was accessible to the children, bottles of alcohol, animal feces, an infestation of ants, noticed an odor, and there was very little food in the home. According to Parrot, M.L. told her that she did not drink alcohol. Parrot explained that when she visited the home on one occasion, one of the children was "eating dried oatmeal out of a package."

         When asked why she was concerned for the children's safety in the home, Parrott testified, "The butcher knife. The fact that [M.L.] had said that [J.B.] is an alcoholic and I observed alcohol bottles just scattered on the floor in the home led me to believe that someone is consuming a significant amount of alcohol in the home." Parrott also explained that the beds she observed were soiled. In addition, Parrot testified that J.B. told her he used Adderall without a valid prescription and had smoked marijuana. According to Parrott, M.L. had reported that she believed one of the older children smoked marijuana.[2] According to Parrott, M.L. told her that she feared CPS because CPS receives $2000 for each removed child, and "[w]e look for kids that have blue eyes and then we put them in a warehouse." Parrot testified that M.L.'s mental health was a concern. Parrott also testified that she was concerned because M.L. said that she was no longer taking her prescribed medications. In addition, Parrott explained that the Department received another intake regarding a physical altercation between M.L., her boyfriend, and one of M.L.'s older children, which occurred at the home. Parrott testified that M.L. failed to submit to required drug testing. When Parrott returned to the home on one occasion, she determined that it had not been sufficiently cleaned, and she decided to proceed with removal. Parrot explained that she considered the home to be in horrible condition and she would not want children there.

         Licensed psychologist Dr. Nisha Amin testified that she completed a psychological evaluation of M.L., which involved "a mental status evaluation as well as testing in the areas of intellectual functioning, achievement, and emotional and personality functioning." Amin concluded that M.L. has difficulties with reasoning and logic, has experienced auditory and visual hallucinations, and has difficulty organizing her thoughts. She diagnosed M.L. with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. In addition, Amin diagnosed M.L. with major depressive disorder, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, ADHD, substance abuse disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Amin explained that people with M.L.'s diagnoses would have difficulty gauging children's needs and how to gauge the appropriate parenting abilities that are needed for various situations.

         Amin characterized M.L. as having a "severe mental health history[]" and stated that M.L. "has a difficult time in recognizing responsibility for the situation that she was in, or her children for that matter." According to Amin, M.L. is involved in a dysfunctional relationship, lacked social support, and only stayed in the relationship because it is her only means of financial support. Amin opined that M.L. tends to cling to relationships at any cost, even if doing so is hurtful to herself or her children. She indicated that M.L. is financially unable to independently provide shelter and support for her children, lacks emotional stability, has mental health issues that prevent her from making appropriate decisions for the children, and lacks social and community resources. According to Amin, the children are "pretty much running their lives on their own with very minimal supervision[, ]" and M.L. did not understand how intrusive drug abuse is for the children.

         Amin expressed concern regarding M.L.'s failure to take her prescribed medications and noted that historically, M.L. tried prescribed medications but would eventually self-medicate with drugs. Furthermore, Amin testified that M.L.'s understanding of disciplining children is limited, and M.L. does not understand the difference between punishment and positive reinforcement. Amin opined that M.L.'s mental deficiencies and diagnoses prevent her from caring for the children, and she predicted that M.L. would not be able to sustain long term sobriety or mental health treatment. According to Amin, given M.L.'s lack of cognition, limited achievement, poor social support, and emotional ...


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