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In re N.M.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

September 19, 2019

In the Interest of N.M., a Child

          On Appeal from the 323rd District Court Tarrant County, Texas Trial Court No. 323-107692-18

          Before Gabriel, Birdwell, and Bassel, JJ.


          Lee Gabriel, Justice.

         Appellant Guy Moore (Father) appeals from the trial court's order terminating his parental rights to his son, Nathan Moore.[1] In a sole point, he argues that the evidence was factually insufficient to support the trial court's finding that the termination of his parental rights was in Nathan's best interest. Because the entire record allowed the trial court to have formed a firm belief or conviction that termination was in Nathan's best interest, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In June 2018, police officers conducted a traffic stop of a car driven by Father. Nathan's mother Annie Post (Mother), two-year-old Nathan, and Mother's older daughter Cathy were also in the car. The officers arrested Mother after discovering she had a warrant regarding a fraud charge in Oklahoma and noted a strong marijuana smell emanating from Father's car. Father said that both children were his, but the officers determined that Cathy was classified as a missing person based on a custodial-kidnapping alert created at the request of Cathy's father who lived in New York. Cathy had been missing for over a year. The officers removed Cathy and Nathan, and Cathy was reunited with her father the next day. The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) took custody of Nathan after obtaining an emergency custody order and filed a suit affecting the parent-child relationship, seeking to reunite Father and Mother with Nathan or to terminate their parental rights if reunification could not be achieved.

         When Nathan was placed in a foster home, he had speech and developmental delays, which Father and Mother had not noticed. Nathan also had "difficulties" and "behaviors" when he was initially placed in DFPS's custody:

[Nathan was] very possessive over objects and things, more so than your typical two year old. He actually claimed a couch in the [foster] home and wouldn't let anybody touch it, stand near it, sit on it. He didn't want to eat with the family. There was his palate with his food was not very broad. [Nathan] didn't like really vegetables, he didn't really like fruits. His palate wasn't very healthy.

         Joel Juarez, a DFPS investigator, talked to Father soon after Nathan was placed in DFPS's custody. Father admitted that he abused marijuana and opiates and that he cared for the children while using marijuana. Indeed, Nathan tested positive for marijuana exposure shortly after he was placed in DFPS's custody.

         Father was confirmed to be Nathan's father, and he and Mother were placed under a service plan. The plan required Father and Mother to find safe and stable housing, maintain financial stability, undergo drug testing, participate in therapy, and complete alcohol- and drug-abuse treatment. Father was told that his compliance with the safety plan would be a factor in deciding whether he could be reunited with Nathan.

         The only employment Father reported to DFPS was his self-employment as a car detailer and doing "odd jobs"; however, he could not provide proof of the "decent amount of money" he reportedly made. Mother was unemployed. Mother and Father were uncooperative with DFPS's attempts to arrange a home visit of her and Father's living conditions, and Mother admitted where she and Father lived was not a stable environment. In fact, they were living in weekly hotels after being evicted from other living arrangements.

         Father and Mother provided no proof that they were attending alcohol- and drug-abuse meetings. Neither successfully completed any form of drug treatment. While the service plan was in place, Mother abused and tested positive for opiates and admitted she used marijuana. Father tested positive many times for marijuana, continued to abuse opiates, and admitted that he had repeatedly exposed Nathan to second-hand marijuana smoke. Both Mother and Father missed or were late for the majority of their scheduled visits with Nathan. Mother and Father remained a couple throughout DFPS's conservatorship.

         In November 2018, Father approached a man at a gas station to ask him if he needed his car detailed. Mother then allegedly took $60 dollars from the man without his consent. While they were driving away, Father allegedly hit the man with his car.[2]A grand jury indicted Mother with theft. In early 2019, Mother and Father convinced three elderly people to give them approximately $25,000 by lying that they had sick triplets who required food and medicine that Mother and Father could not afford. Both were indicted with three counts of exploitation of the elderly.

         DFPS investigated the possibility of placing Nathan with Father's mother, Sandra Moore. During its investigation of Sandra as a possible placement for Nathan, Sandra admitted that she used marijuana every evening to relax and stated that marijuana was "one of [her] only friends." Sandra lived with her daughter and her daughter's three children in a two-bedroom apartment. The two school-aged children did not attend school, and Sandra was unemployed. ...

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