Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth
In the Interest of A.B.-G. and A.B.-G., Children
Appeal from the 231st District Court Tarrant County, Texas
Trial Court No. 231-583258-15
Kerr, Birdwell, and Womack, JJ.
ELIZABETH KERR, JUSTICE
bench trial, the trial court terminated Mother's parental
rights to her then-11-year-old twins, Austin and
Angela. On appeal, Mother asserts that the
evidence does not support the trial court's best-interest
and grounds findings. We affirm.
Court found by clear and convincing evidence that
• termination of the parent-child relationship between
Mother and the children was in the children's best
interest. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
• Mother had knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the
children to remain in conditions or surroundings that
endangered their physical or emotional well-being. See
id. § 161.00l(b)(1)(D).
• Mother had engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the
children with persons who engaged in conduct that endangered
the children's physical or emotional well-being. See
id. § 161.00l(b)(1)(E).
• Mother had been convicted or had been placed on
community supervision, including deferred-adjudication
community supervision, for being criminally responsible for
the death or serious injury of a child under penal code
section 22.04. See id. § 161.00l(b)(1)(L); Tex.
Penal Code Ann. § 22.04 ("Injury to a Child,
Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual").
The Department removed Mother's children.
Austin and Angela came into the Department of Family and
Protective Services' care in November 2016 after Austin
appeared at school with a bruised eye and attributed it to
Mother's hitting him with a belt. The school nurse
observed additional bruising on Austin's back and arm.
Forensic interviewers met with the children.
Austin described Mother's hitting him with a
forensic interviewer at the Alliance for Children recorded
her November 2016 interview with Austin during which he said
that Mother had hit him "hard" with a leather belt
in the face, striking his eye and causing it to swell.
Initially, he described how Mother had hit him once on the
back and how his backbone felt like it had been broken; later
he said that she had hit him several times on the back. When
shown photos of his injuries, Austin acknowledged other marks
that Mother had left on his arms and shoulder from the same
reported only one other similar incident, in which Mother had
struck him twice on the palm of his hand. He acknowledged
also having seen Mother give his sister Angela a
"whupping." Despite everything, Austin expressed
concern about Mother's getting in trouble.
Angela also described Mother's beltings.
different forensic interviewer at the Alliance for Children
interviewed Angela on the same day. Angela explained that
Austin had misbehaved at the mall and that a few days later
Mother had hit him with a belt. While Angela was in the
bathroom at their home, she heard Austin screaming and Mother
telling him to sit still. Angela then heard approaching
footsteps; Mother entered the bathroom, swung the belt onto a
rack, and helped Angela with her bath. The next morning,
Angela saw that Austin had a big bump on his eye, and when
she asked him what had happened, Austin's only response
explained that when Mother treated Austin this way, Angela
usually hid in her bedroom. When asked how often she had to
hide, she responded, "A lot." She hid because she
was scared and because she hated it when Mother took a belt
Austin was not the only child whom Mother hit with a belt.
Angela described a time when she was riding her scooter and
talking too much: Mother took off her belt, chased Angela
into a parking lot, and struck her in the back. After Angela
tried to hide in the bushes, Mother "whipped her belt
way up high and swung through the bush," leaving a
"scar" on the side of Angela's face. On another
occasion, Angela took the last slice of a pizza, so Mother
grabbed the belt and struck her, leaving marks on her arm and
leg. Another time, Mother hit Angela with a metal spatula,
causing Angela to bleed; after that, Mother stopped using a
After being indicted, Mother pleaded guilty to injury to a
in 2017 for injury to a child, a third-degree felony, Mother
entered a plea-bargain agreement and was placed on
deferred-adjudication community supervision.
Mother's monitored return failed.
April 2018, the trial court signed an "Order for
Monitored Return" that set out a transitional period
before placing the children back in Mother's home. But
during the specified period, the trial court vacated the
The Department then sought termination.
case proceeded to a bench trial in February 2019.
Mother had a history of physically abusing her oldest
had three children. Austin and Angela, the youngest, had an
older half-sibling, Sister, who was 22 years old at the time
had a history with the Department involving Sister, too: in
2007, the Department removed Sister (then aged 10 or 11) due
to negligent supervision, and in 2009 after Mother had
completed her services, the Department returned Sister to
Mother. But four months later the Department removed Sister
again, this time for physical abuse. After that second
removal, Sister remained in foster care-at Sister's own
request-until she aged out. Mother's psychological
evaluation reported that Sister "had made repeated
outcries of serious physical and psychological abuse from her
mother" and that "[i]t [was] unusual for a child
not to want to return to a parent[, ] and this [spoke]
Mother acknowledged physically abusing Austin.
Austin and Angela's November 2016 removal, Mother
acknowledged striking Austin with a belt, pleading guilty to
injury to a child, and being placed on deferred-adjudication
community supervision. And at trial, Mother agreed that
striking Austin was not discipline but was, instead, child
Mother completed most of her services, but doubts
trial, the Department did not dispute that Mother had
completed most of her services, and Mother assured the court
that she would not hit her children again: "My plan is
to not even ever think about spanking my children ever again.
. . . I have verified that with several police officers-that
it is the law. I never will spank my children ever
again." From her services, Mother asserted that she had
learned a new approach: "My plan is to use communication
to speak with them and let them know and to reiterate again
and communicate and reiterate and talk." But Mother also
admitted that five times since 2006 the Department had found
"reason to believe"that she had physically abused her
children, that each time she had promised not to do it again,
and that she did it again anyway. When asked why anyone
should believe her now, Mother responded, "[S]panking is
not against the law. However, spanking does bring about an
environment where CPS is called, the police are called[, ]
and my children are removed from the home." She
continued, "So going through that several times, I have
learned other ways of communication . . . ."
several witnesses expressed doubt that Mother had changed.
example, Mother's probation officer denied seeing
anything showing that Mother had learned to think and behave
differently: "[E]verything [Mother] would say sounded
like [a] textbook answer. It appeared that she wasn't
grasping what I was asking her. . . . She wasn't giving
any examples of what someone would learn." Further,
Mother was not taking responsibility for hitting Austin;
instead, she blamed Austin for moving and not being still.
The probation officer explained that admitting to having done
something and taking responsibility for it were not
necessarily the same: "Externalizing blame. Blaming
someone else for their actions. There's a criminal
thinking error . . . if they minimize it or blame someone
else, then they're not taking responsibility for their
caseworker, too, said that Mother blamed the children:
"At one point in December  when we went over why
the children came into care, she told me if her children were
. . . well-mannered children, we wouldn't be in this
situation." The caseworker doubted that Mother had
changed: "[Mother] would tell me that that was her way
of disciplining the children and that CPS wanted a perfect
parent. She never really-from my conversations with her, she
never really grasped that concept." Although Mother now
used time-outs, which the caseworker commended, Mother still
disciplined in ways that the caseworker found unacceptable.
For example, Mother had forced Austin to do push-ups in a
public area, and during Mother's last visit with the
children, Mother had ended the visit early when the children
push-up incident happened at a McDonald's only a month
before trial. The court-appointed special advocate (CASA
worker) described it: "[Mother] was upset with [Austin,
] and she made him get on the middle of the floor . . . and
give her 20 pushups, and [Austin] was crying[, ] and
obviously he was embarrassed[, ] and people saw it . . .
." This happened not once but twice. "[W]hen
[Austin] finished his pushups and came back, [Mother] had him
do it again for something else she was upset with."
CASA worker was concerned that physical abuse would continue.
When asked to explain why, she responded, "The way that
[Mother] reacts to the children. She can get real angry with
them[, ] and she doesn't physically do anything to them,
but she becomes agitated and yells at them there at the
the Department did not think the children would be safe
returning to Mother.
Mother's mental-health issues made her resist
mental-health therapist thought that Mother had made progress
"for her abilities" but opined that Mother needed
to continue counseling. The therapist added that "CPS
usually requests bigger changes, bigger progress in a quicker
time frame than I thought [Mother] was able to make."
of intelligence was not the problem; Mother's therapist
described her as "an intelligent lady who . . . talk[s]
a good game" but nonetheless as having "a serious
lack of insight into and understanding of her own
behaviors" and as presenting "an extremely
defensive profile." According to the therapist,
"She prefers to give cerebral responses and avoids
discussing her emotional reactions or how she feels about
situations." In the therapist's psychological
evaluation, she explained why Mother's ability to change
was effectively stunted:
Although [Mother] attempted to present herself in a
positive manner, some of the scales [are] still elevated and
indicate her personality profile is associated with people
who tend to think everyone is working against her, who have
major trust issues, and are described by others as
hypersensitive, resistant, and angry at times. People who
produce such profiles are often viewed as guarded and
distrustful. The profile is also associated with people who
may have a marked overreaction to minor stress. They tend to
have difficulty expressing their emotions in an adaptive
manner and may alternate between being over-controlled and
direct to having under-controlled emotional outbursts.
[Mother] tends to make excuses for her poor decision making
and accepts little responsibility for CPS being involved in
her life once again. . . .
When a person tries to create a favorable impression of
herself and takes a guarded and defensive approach to the
test taking, this results in limited understanding of the
person because they were not open to the process. . . .
. . . . [Mother] presented as an individual who has little
insight into her motivations and shows little awareness of
the consequences to others because of her behavior. Excessive
disciplining can affect children negatively.
examples of Mother's lack of insight, the therapist
pointed to how Mother answered two incomplete-sentence
• "If I could change one thing about myself it
would be to be more perfect."
• "I failed to prove to CPS that I am not an
is very hard," the therapist concluded, "to help
someone when they don't see a need to make changes."
And because of Mother's "lack of insight and
defenses which keep her stuck," the prognosis for any
type of psychological intervention was "poor."
trial, the therapist testified that Mother would sometimes
admit to having abused Sister but later revert to blaming her
for what Mother had done. This vacillating did not concern
the therapist, though, because that was "somewhat normal
behavior" for persons who were "dealing with
situations like this" and because Mother's
vacillating depended on Mother's mood and on what they
told her therapist that she felt the Department was
railroading her, and to an extent her therapist tended to
agree. The therapist explained that after a parent completes
the family-care plan, the Department would usually work
toward transitioning the children back to the parent,
something the Department did not do with Mother. But the
therapist acknowledged that she had never observed Mother
during Mother's visits with the children.
Mother's visits with her children sparked emotional-abuse
those persons who had observed Mother interact with her
children expressed at trial their concerns that she was
abusing them emotionally.
example, the caseworker testified:
[Mother] would often belittle the children's
accomplishments, . . . .
[Mother] would ask-you know, make them go to the restroom
even though the children had stated they ...