Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont
IN THE INTEREST OF C.H. AND A.H.
Submitted on August 19, 2019
Appeal from the 418th District Court Montgomery County, Texas
Trial Cause No. 17-09-11182-CV
McKeithen, C.J., Kreger and Johnson, JJ.
McKEITHEN CHIEF JUSTICE.
appeals the trial court's order terminating her parental
rights. In seven issues, K.K. challenges the legal and
factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting the best
interest finding, as well as the termination grounds
specified in section 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (O), and (P), and
complains that the trial court abused its discretion by not
allowing three witnesses to testify on K.K.'s behalf and
not granting additional time to place the children with
family. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (O), (P), (b)(2). We affirm the trial
court's order terminating K.K.'s parental rights.
March 4, 2019, the trial court called the case for trial.
K.K.'s counsel stated that she was not ready to proceed
with trial and asked for a reset, but counsel stated that she
was ready to proceed as to status documents. The Department
called K.K. to the stand, and she testified that she is the
children's mother and provided the children's dates
of birth. The trial judge then stated, "As much as I
hate to do it, everybody announced ready and we started
evidence in the matter, but I really think we['d] better
recess. . . ." The trial court noted that K.K.'s
counsel was not feeling well and reset the case.
the proceeding resumed on May 15, 2019, the trial court
conducted a hearing on K.K.'s motion for continuance, in
which K.K. asserted that a home study of the children's
maternal grandmother had been approved. K.K.'s counsel
stated that she had not seen a copy of the study, but
requested time to obtain a copy and then suggested that the
case could "perhaps . . . proceed to mediation[.]"
The attorney for the children's father, J.H., (who is not
a party to this appeal) joined in the motion and asserted
that continuing the case would be in the children's best
interest. The attorney for the Department argued that the
case had been pending for twenty months, and that the motion
for continuance had no verification or affidavit regarding
the source of the information about a home study of the
maternal grandmother, from whom the information came, or
precisely what information K.K.'s counsel had received.
The Department's counsel also asserted that the
Department was unaware of any approved home study for the
counsel called Department case worker Victoria Warmuth to
testify at the hearing. Warmuth testified that she had been
in contact with the children's maternal grandmother, who
resides in Florida, as well as the case worker in Florida.
Warmuth explained that she did not receive notice of a home
study regarding the maternal grandmother being approved while
she was the case worker. Warmuth testified that because the
maternal grandmother's own children had been removed and
she had been involved with "several people who have been
physically violent with her," Warmuth had concerns about
placing the children with her.
conservatorship caseworker Brenda Lara testified that she is
the current caseworker for the children. Lara testified that
as of the day before trial, the Department had not received
the results of the home study regarding the maternal
Department's supervisor Kimberly
Rodgers-Porter also testified at the hearing on the
motion for continuance. Rodgers-Porter testified that the
Department had not received notice that a home study had been
approved. According to Rodgers-Porter, the study was
"still pending." Rodgers-Porter testified that she
believed moving forward with the trial was in the
children's best interest. Rodgers-Porter testified that
the allegation in K.K.'s motion for continuance regarding
a relative home study was untrue.
Rodgers-Porter testified, K.K.'s counsel asked to call
the maternal grandmother and the Department's supervisor
in Florida by phone as witnesses, which the trial court
denied. K.K. then called CASA's guardian ad litem, Susan
Munkres. Munkres testified that the Department was still
awaiting a determination regarding the maternal grandmother.
Munkres also testified that the maternal grandmother has
"a history of at least 15 years of abusive relationships
with men." The trial judge noted that the issue at trial
would be whether parental rights should be terminated and
denied the motion for continuance.
trial on the merits began, the Department called CPS
investigator Daniel Willbur to testify. Willbur explained
that when the case was assigned to him, the Department was
concerned that the children's father, J.H., had been
using them "to make pornography[, ]" and the FBI
was investigating. Willbur testified that he prepared the
affidavit in support of removal. According to Willbur, K.K.
was incarcerated on a drug-related charge at that time, and
she refused to tell Willbur where the children were. Willbur
explained that when he spoke with K.K., she stated that she
did not believe J.H. would have committed the crimes of which
he was accused.
testified that she stopped using drugs when she was pregnant
with A.H., but she resumed using drugs in 2017 after J.H. was
incarcerated. K.K. explained that in 2017, she had lost
everything and was living in her truck with the children.
According to K.K., the longest period of time she has held a
job since the children's birth is six months. K.K.
testified that in August 2017, she was arrested for
manufacturing and possession of methamphetamines, and she
pleaded guilty and received ten years of deferred
adjudication community supervision. K.K. explained that she
was told that A.H. tested positive for methamphetamine. K.K.
testified that she was incarcerated when the Department
became involved. K.K. also testified that she was charged
with criminal trespass in December 2017. K.K. explained that
she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder,
anxiety, and depression. According to K.K., the children were
in J.H.'s care when the FBI investigation began. K.K.
testified that if she had known about the pornography, she
would not have left the ...