Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth
Appeal from the 360th District Court Tarrant County, Texas
Trial Court No. 360-569007-15
Sudderth, C.J.; Gabriel and Womack, JJ.
an accelerated appeal in which Mother appeals the termination of
her parental rights to K.A. In four issues, Mother argues
that the trial court entered "conflicting"
best-interest findings in its termination order and in its
findings of fact, that the findings of fact control, and thus
the trial court failed to make a best-interest finding; that
the foster parents in this case lacked standing to intervene;
and that there is insufficient evidence to support the trial
court's finding under Texas Family Code Sections
161.001(b)(1)(F) and 161.001(b)(1)(O). We will affirm.
the Department of Family and Protective Services (Department)
had received allegations that Mother had engaged in behavior
that endangered K.A.'s well-being, the Department
initiated an investigation that ultimately led the Department
to seek termination of Mother's and Father's parental
rights to K.A. The Department's involvement began on
August 9, 2017, when K.A. was two years old. K.A. was placed
at five different homes, sometimes more than once, with
various relatives and one foster couple over a nineteen-month
span before the trial court held a final termination hearing
on March 11, 2019. In addition to attorneys for the
Department, the hearing also involved Mother's attorney,
Father's attorney, K.A.'s attorney ad litem, and
attorneys for the foster parents who intervened in this case.
hearing, Dominique Veal, a former investigator for the
Department testified. Veal said that while she worked for the
Department, on August 9, 2017, she investigated allegations
that Mother was using methamphetamine on a daily basis, that
K.A. was underweight, and that K.A. had ingested a
methamphetamine byproduct while at home. After running a
background on the family, Veal attempted to make contact with
Mother that evening by going to the home but was unable to
make contact. Veal said that she finally made contact with
Mother the next day via telephone and then made a home visit
on August 11, 2017, where she met Mother, Grandmother, and
K.A. According to Veal, Mother denied the allegations.
stated that she conducted an oral swab on Mother and that the
results came back positive for methamphetamine and
amphetamines. Veal said that Mother denied having used
methamphetamine but did offer the explanation that her
boyfriend, whom Mother allegedly had an active emergency
protective order against at the time, had given her a white
powder contained in a capsule to help her with her bulimia.
Veal testified that she discussed Mother's drug use
history with Mother and she learned that Mother had previous
addictions to Xanax, which resulted in an older daughter
being placed with her father, and to Vicodin, which Mother
told Veal she stopped using when K.A. turned six months old.
said that the Department enacted a safety plan that day and
that K.A. was temporarily placed with the foster parents with
whom he now lives. As part of the plan, Mother was not to
have any unsupervised contact with K.A. Initially, the plan
specified that K.A. would be supervised by either Grandmother
or a neighbor, but later, Veal interviewed Great-Grandmother
and made her an alternative placement for K.A. under the
plan. That same day, August 18, 2017, Mother submitted to a
follicle hair test and again tested positive for
methamphetamine and amphetamines. Veal said that these
results concerned her because it meant that Mother was
actively using methamphetamine. By Veal's account, at
some point during the investigation K.A. also tested positive
for methamphetamine. Because of these results and because
Veal had learned that Mother was still living with
Grandmother and sometimes watching K.A. unsupervised, Veal
said that the Department implemented a second parental child
safety placement which involved ultimately placing K.A. at
met Mother at her home as the second safety placement was
being implemented and requested another oral swab from
Mother, which Mother refused. Veal returned the next day and
obtained an oral swab from Mother-she tested positive again
for methamphetamine and amphetamines. Mother then
acknowledged that she had used methamphetamine recently.
Mother also became confrontational when Veal asked where
Mother had been staying the last few days, to which Mother
"sarcastically said that she was staying under a
bridge." And because Mother had also made a comment
about "blow[ing] her head off" during this
interaction, Veal said that the Department got the police
involved out of worry for Mother's safety.
testified that difficulty arose while K.A. was placed with
Great-Grandmother. Specifically, Veal stated that Mother and
Grandmother had threatened to take K.A. from
Great-Grandmother and then later Mother and an ex-boyfriend-
who was reportedly "a hit man" and the boyfriend
that Mother had previously obtained an emergency protective
order against-threatened to shoot Great-Grandmother. The
experience caused Great-Grandmother to move in with a friend
for a while because she was scared.
to Veal, because of an upcoming surgery that
Great-Grandmother had scheduled prior to K.A. being placed
with her, the Department was faced with an urgent need to
place K.A. with someone else. Veal said that Mother was not
an option because placing K.A. with Mother risked his
physical health, safety, and well-being. Because the
Department was unable to locate a suitable placement for K.A.
after Great-Grandmother was no longer an option, the
Department sought removal of K.A. In the second half of 2018,
K.A. was placed back with his foster parents.
also averred that her research into Mother's criminal
history revealed that Mother had multiple convictions for
assault, a conviction for driving while intoxicated, and a
conviction for possession of a controlled substance.
Gurrola, a conservatorship specialist with the Department,
testified that she received this case in February 2018.
Gurrola said that after reviewing the case file, what
concerned her the most were Mother's history of drug use
and unaddressed mental health issues. According to Gurrola,
she grew more concerned about Mother as the case remained
pending because during that time Mother was arrested for
domestic violence against Grandmother and then she was later
arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. Gurrola also
said that Mother had tested positive for drugs during that
same time and that she often acted erratic. In all, from
initial investigation until trial, Mother tested positive at
least six times for methamphetamine and refused to submit a
sample on multiple occasions. By Gurrola's account, after
refusing to submit a sample, Mother declared that "she
was not going to comply with the Department anymore."
said that Mother attended most of her scheduled visits with
K.A. while he was placed with others, but Gurrola also said
that Mother would become irritable and uninterested if a
visit lasted longer than an hour. Gurrola recalled how on one
occasion Mother had shouted at K.A. that she
"couldn't stand to be around him for long periods of
time." By Gurrola's account, Mother's shouting
and erratic behavior caused K.A. to run to his room and
huddle "into a small ball in the corner." Gurrola
said that it took a couple of minutes to calm him down. She
also said that Mother had once threatened suicide in front of
K.A. and that it was not uncommon for Mother and Grandmother
to argue and yell in front of him.
Mother's housing situation, Gurrola said that Mother was
living with a friend named Moe, but Gurrola was never able to
verify Mother's housing accommodations because Mother
rescheduled visits to the home multiple times. Gurrola
further said that she was concerned because Mother had
conveyed to Gurrola that Mother had to exchange sexual favors
with Moe in order to remain living with him. Gurrola averred
that even though Mother claimed to be employed off and on,
Mother never verified any employment with Gurrola, and Mother
never demonstrated an ability to provide K.A. with a safe and
stable living environment. Gurrola also stated that she did
not believe that K.A. should be returned to Mother because
she had endangered K.A.'s well-being and had also left
him with people in an environment that endangered K.A.'s
physical and emotional well-being.
averred that Mother had not completed the majority of her
service plan. Under the service plan, Mother was to have a
psychosocial assessment and engage in individual counseling.
She also needed to demonstrate financial stability and stable
housing. Mother was further required to complete a drug
assessment and submit to random drug testing.
said that although Mother had initially gone to and been
discharged from outpatient treatment for drug use, the
program she was in did not consider her a successful
discharge because although she attended the requisite number
of sessions, "she had not engaged" in the sessions.
Gurrola did say that Mother had begun attending another
drug-use treatment program beginning in January 2019 and that
she had also been seeing an individual therapist since
January as well, but Gurrola said that Mother had not
successfully completed individual counseling and drug
treatment according to her service plan despite being given
ample time. On February 15, 2019, Mother refused to submit to
a drug test, which Gurrola said that the Department
considered a failed drug test. Gurrola further said that
despite being prescribed medication for depression, Mother
stopped taking the medication alleging that she did not like
the side effects.
discussed two possible placements for K.A. that the
Department believed were better suited for K.A. than being
returned to Mother's care. Gurrola explained that the
Department's first choice of placement for K.A. would be
with his maternal Uncle and Wife because Uncle and K.A. are
related and the Department's policy is that family
members are the preferred final placement for children.
Gurrola averred that the Department already had an approved
home study for Uncle and Wife's home but that Uncle and
Wife would need to be named permanent managing conservators.
Gurrola stated that under the scenario where Uncle and Wife
were named permanent managing conservators of K.A. and he was
placed with them, the Department preferred that Mother's
rights to K.A. not be terminated, but she admitted that under
this plan there was potential instability for K.A. because
Mother, or someone else, might ultimately attempt to gain
permanent managing conservatorship over K.A. in the future.
Gurrola also testified that regardless of K.A.'s ultimate
placement, termination of Mother's parental rights was in
K.A.'s best interest.
also admitted that Uncle and Wife had given numerous
inconsistent answers to Department investigators about past
drug use, other family members with addiction issues, prior
criminal histories, the ultimate results of Wife's prior
involvement with the Department, and previous domestic
violence in their home- Gurrola said she did not record these
inconsistencies in her report. She further said that Uncle
and Wife had still not made certain repairs or adjustments to
their home four months after the Department asked them to do
so. Gurrola agreed that it was also problematic that Uncle
and Wife had reported a monthly gross income in excess of
what they would have to report to receive food stamps but
that Uncle and Wife had also listed receiving food stamps in
their home study report. And even though Gurrola had told
Uncle and Wife that they could visit K.A. while he was in
foster care, Gurrola could only recall them having visited
K.A. once. Neither Uncle nor Wife testified at the trial.
testified that the Department's second choice of
placement was with the foster parents that were caring for
K.A. at the time of trial. Gurrola stated that under this
scenario, the Department was seeking termination of
Mother's parental rights and requesting the Department be
named permanent managing ...