Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the 296th Judicial District Court Collin County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. 296-30017-2018
Justices Brown, Schenck, and Pedersen, III
PEDERSEN, III JUSTICE.
(Mother) appeals the termination of her parental rights to
her daughter, C.J.B.Following a bench trial, the trial court
found by clear and convincing evidence that Mother had
committed five statutory predicate acts supporting
termination, and that termination of Mother's parental
rights was in C.J.B.'s best interest. Mother raises eight
appellate issues, challenging the legal and factual
sufficiency of the evidence to support the termination of her
rights and the appointment of the Texas Department of Family
and Protective Services as sole managing conservator of
C.J.B. She also complains that the trial court abused its
discretion in denying her motion for an extension of the
dismissal date. We affirm the trial court's judgment.
January 9, 2018, C.J.B. was born by an emergency C-section at
Parkland Hospital. She was placed in the neonatal intensive
care unit (NICU) because she was premature, in respiratory
distress, and tested positive for opiates. The Texas
Department of Family and Protective Services (the Department)
received a priority referral that Mother had given birth to
C.J.B., and that both Mother and child had tested positive
January 26, 2018, the Department filed its original petition
for protection of the child, for conservatorship, and for
termination in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship
pursuant to Chapter 262 of the Texas Family Code.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 262.001-.352.
The Department requested permission to take immediate
possession of the child and to terminate Mother's
parental rights. According to the supporting affidavit of
Chelsea Pensata, an investigator with the Department, the
referral indicated that when Mother arrived at Parkland
Hospital, she was aggressive, belligerent, and yelling at
anyone who tried to assist her. She had a bottle of Xanax in
her purse and a syringe in her vagina. Mother tested positive
for opiates and benzodiazepine; when her baby girl was born,
the baby also tested positive for opiates.
affidavit, Pensata stated that she spoke to the Parkland
Hospital staff and went to the hospital to see C.J.B. She
learned from Mother's attorney that immediately after
giving birth to C.J.B., Mother had checked herself in to a
drug treatment facility-New Directions for Women, located in
Costa Mesa, California. Mother's attorney arranged for
Pensata to interview Mother by telephone. During the
telephone interview, Mother told Pensata that she had
relapsed a couple weeks before the emergency C-section.
Mother said she last used IV drugs the day before her
C-section; she also stated that she had been using heroin and
prescription pills four to five times a week. Mother told
Pensata that she was unaware of the syringe in her vagina and
did not remember anything about the bottle of Xanax.
to the supporting affidavit of Heidi Arum Kim, M.D., the
attending resident at C.J.B.'s birth, the infant's
meconium drug screen was positive for opiates. She also
stated, "[t]he infant at this time is occasionally
exhibiting signs/symptoms of drug withdrawal, including mild
tremors, mottling, respiratory rate greater than 60
breaths/minute and loose stools and is being monitored
closely. No treatment has been given as of this time."
trial court signed orders for emergency care and temporary
custody of the child, and named the Department as the
child's temporary managing conservator. The Department
took possession of C.J.B. When C.J.B. was finally discharged
from the hospital, the Department placed her with her
paternal grandparents, with whom she continues to live.
Mother filed a general denial.
hearing on February 14, 2018, which Mother did not attend,
the trial court ordered Mother to complete parenting classes,
a psychological evaluation, individual counseling, a
drug/alcohol assessment, to participate in and successfully
complete an inpatient drug/alcohol treatment program, and to
comply with any recommendations she received based on her
participation in these services. Modinat Showemimo, a
conservatorship worker for the Department, was assigned to
the case. Showemimo prepared the Family Service Plan and
personally delivered it to Mother. Showemimo also prepared
the Family Service Plan Evaluation to document Mother's
did not appear at the temporary order hearing because she was
still in Costa Mesa, California at New Directions for Women.
She told Showemimo that she was in inpatient rehabilitation,
but she refused to sign a court-ordered release allowing the
Department to verify that she had participated in, or
completed, this rehabilitation program. According to her
attorney, Mother remained at this rehabilitation facility
until February 21, 2018. When the trial court asked her
attorney why Mother defied a court order to sign the release,
he informed the court that it was his understanding that
Mother did not complete the program.
her return to Texas, Mother resumed using heroin and
reportedly appeared for child visitations while under the
influence of drugs. She was arrested on March 12, 2018, on an
outstanding warrant in a pending child
abandonment/endangerment case. A month later, she was arrested
for theft and possession, and she remained in jail from April
16, 2018 through June 14, 2018. On June 14, 2018, the court
signed an order of deferred adjudication in Mother's
pending child abandonment/endangerment case, and as part of
her community supervision, Mother was ordered to participate
in and successfully complete the Cenikor inpatient substance
abuse treatment program. The Cenikor program usually takes
eighteen to twenty-four months to complete, depending on the
individual participant's progress. Mother entered the
Cenikor program on June 14, but she left after sixty-two
days, on August 6, 2018.
Mother's departure from the Cenikor program, the State
filed a petition to enter a final adjudication of
Mother's guilt in the child abandonment/endangerment
case, alleging that Mother had violated the terms and
conditions of her community supervision. On August 30, 2018,
the court signed a judgment adjudicating Mother's guilt,
and sentenced her to six months in jail. Mother was
incarcerated from August 30, 2018, through December 30, 2018.
When she was released from jail on December 30, 2018, she
moved to Maryland.
trial pertaining to the termination of Mother's parental
rights to C.J.B. was scheduled to begin two weeks later, on
January 14, 2019. On January 9, 2019, Mother filed an
original counterpetition seeking sole managing
conservatorship of the child. She also filed a motion
requesting (i) an extension of the dismissal date, (ii) a new
dismissal date of July 26, 2019, (iii) a new trial date, and
(iv) a jury trial.
January 14, 2019, the scheduled trial date, Mother appeared
through her appointed counsel and requested that she be
allowed to participate by telephone. Counsel also re-urged
Mother's motions for an extension of the dismissal date,
a continuance of the trial, and a jury trial. The court
denied mother's requests and proceeded with the trial.
trial, Showemimo testified that Mother's parental rights
should be terminated because Mother failed to complete the
requirements of her Family Service Plan. She testified that
Mother completed her psychological examination, and started,
but did not complete the parenting class, individual
counseling, and at least two substance abuse treatment
programs. Although Showemimo sent Mother for monthly drug
testing, she only appeared to be tested on three occasions.
Although Mother claimed to be employed, she refused to
provide the name of her employer or any paystubs as proof of
testified that Mother's parental rights should be
terminated for knowingly placing C.J.B. in an environment
dangerous to the child's physical and emotional
well-being by using drugs while she was pregnant, continuing
to use drugs after C.J.B. was born, and failing to complete a
substance abuse treatment program. Also, Showemimo stated
that Mother's parental rights should be terminated
because C.J.B. tested positive for drugs when she was born.
expressed concerns about Mother's parenting skills. In
her opinion, Mother had not bonded with C.J.B. Showemimo
stated that Mother was offered visitation but she did not
take it. Mother had court-ordered visitation and could have
seen C.J.B. every week; however, Mother only saw C.J.B. five
times. When Mother was in the Cenikor program, Showemimo
drove C.J.B. to visitation with Mother on two occasions.
Showemimo stated that Mother wanted to show her baby to all
the other Cenikor residents, but Showemimo observed that
Mother had little interest, and appeared uncomfortable, in
alone-time with the child. Mother was not allowed to see
C.J.B. while she was incarcerated. However, since Mother has
been released from jail, she has not asked to see C.J.B.
Showemimo also testified that during her incarceration,
Mother made no effort to continue parenting classes or work
on other Service Plan requirements, even though classes were
available to Mother while she was in jail.
Showemimo testified that it was in C.J.B.'s best interest
for Mother's parental rights to be terminated. She
testified that C.J.B. deserves permanency and the Blackwoods,
C.J.B.'s paternal grandparents, are the only parents the
child knows. She believes that the child is in a safe,
stable, long-term home, free of drugs, and it is in her best
interest to stay there with people who will protect her.
Showemimo testified that, in contrast, C.J.B. does not know
Mother. Over the course of the year, Mother "did not
demonstrate any progress or complete her services" and
in Showemimo's opinion, Mother would continue to be a
risk to C.J.B. Showemimo testified that she has not heard
from Mother since she was released from jail. She learned
that Mother had moved to Maryland but she does not know where
Mother is living, she does not know if Mother has employment,
and she does not know if Mother is continuing to take drugs.
Because Mother lives in Maryland, Showemimo is unable to send
her for drug testing.
Belloni, Ph.D., LP., psychologist, conducted Mother's
psychological evaluation on April 4, 2018. Mother admitted to
Belloni that prior to January 2018, she was using a gram of
heroin and six milligrams of Xanax on a daily basis. Belloni
testified that Mother told her that she stopped using drugs
on January 9, 2018; however, she later admitted that she had
relapsed and had used drugs since January 9. In evaluating
Mother, Belloni conducted a parenting inventory. Based on
Mother's responses, Belloni concluded that Mother's
expectations appear to be inconsistent with the developmental
ability of children, she may tend to be demanding and
controlling, she appears to have a low level of empathy, and