Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth
In the Interest of Z.J. and D.J., Children
Appeal from the 367th District Court Denton County, Texas
Trial Court No. 17-8176-367.
Sudderth, C.J.; Bassel and Womack, JJ.
an ultra-accelerated appeal in which Appellant B.H. (Father)
appeals the termination of his parental rights to his
daughter Jane and in which Appellant K.J. (Mother)
appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
daughter Jane and her son John following a two-day jury
trial. In two points, Father argues that it was
unconscionable for the trial court to terminate his parental
rights to Jane based on his failure to comply with his
service plan because of his indigence, and he argues that the
evidence is insufficient to support the trial court's
endangering-environment and endangering-conduct findings.
Mother's court-appointed attorney filed a motion to
withdraw as counsel and an Anders brief in support
of that motion. Because an unchallenged predicate ground
supports the termination of Father's parental rights and
because Mother's appeal is frivolous, we affirm the trial
court's judgment terminating Father's parental rights
to Jane and terminating Mother's parental rights to Jane
time of the termination trial in March 2019, Mother had been
in a relationship with John's father for nine years.
Mother's relationship with Father coincided with her
relationship with John's father, when they all lived in
Michigan. Mother, Father, and John's father have all
struggled with drug use, and Mother and the children lived
with John's father in a drug house in Michigan.
December 2016, Mother moved Jane and John to Texas in search
of a better environment for her kids, but she moved into
another drug house. During a drug raid on the home in
September 2017, police discovered unsanitary conditions in
the home and found a gun sitting on a dresser and cocaine
residue on a scale that was accessible to the children. The
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (the
Department) was called to the scene and took possession of
parental rights to Jane and John were terminated based on the
endangering environment and endangering conduct that Mother
had exposed them to in addition to failing to complete her
court-ordered services. Father, who lived in Michigan
throughout the case and who tested positive for various
illegal drugs, had his parental rights to Jane terminated
based on exposing her to an endangering environment and
endangering conduct, failing to complete his court-ordered
services, and constructively abandoning her. Additionally,
Mother's and Father's parental rights were terminated
based on the jury's best-interest findings.
Life in Michigan
who grew up in Michigan, started smoking marijuana at sixteen
and continued smoking marijuana as she got older. Mother
testified that in Michigan, people consider marijuana use to
be normal because it is legal to use it for both medicinal
and recreational purposes. Even though Mother knew that
marijuana was a drug, she "didn't think that it was
a big problem" for her. Mother believed that marijuana
helped reduce her rage issues. Mother said that marijuana
kept her calm and kept her out of trouble and that without
it, her anger was "just unmanageable."
giving birth to Jane in June 2014, Mother did not work
outside the home. Mother said that Father never came to see
Jane and that he did not do "anything pertaining to
taking care of her." Mother testified that when she
applied for food stamps in Michigan, Father was not providing
any financial support for Jane.
testified that when she was pregnant with John, she smoked
marijuana until she was six-and-a-half months pregnant but
then stopped because she wanted John to test negative for
drugs when he was born in June 2015. Mother mentioned that she
was involved with CPS in Michigan because John tested
positive for marijuana, but she did not specify when this
testified that she had knowledge of John's father's
criminal activity in Michigan: she knew that he smoked
marijuana, hung around the wrong crowd, and dealt drugs.
Mother admitted that she and her children lived with
John's father in Michigan while he was dealing drugs.
Mother testified that she decided to move to Texas on
December 24, 2016, because "the living environment in
Michigan wasn't fit for [her] to raise [her] kids
Life after Moving to Texas
Mother came to Texas, she moved in with John's paternal
aunt and her fiancé. When Mother moved in, she knew
that they were selling drugs out of the home. Mother later
testified that when she had moved in, she did not know that
drugs were being sold out of the house, but "months
afterwards[, ]. . . that is when [she] caught on that it was
drugs being sold out [of] the house." Mother testified
that she did not want to raise her children in a drug house
but that she did not have anywhere else to go and was doing
the best that she could at that time.
testified that John's father moved to Texas in February
or March 2017 and that he did not immediately start selling
drugs. But Mother knew that John's father was using
drugs. Mother also knew that John's father was a felon
and that he had a gun, but she testified that she did not
know that the gun was located in the room where they slept.
Mother testified that her children did not have access to the
gun. Mother said that she had talked to John's father
about getting rid of the gun and about abstaining from drugs
but that he did not take her advice.
was also using drugs. Mother said that she spent $50 per day
on marijuana, which equated to twenty or twenty-five
"blunts." She testified that it took her at least
seven blunts to get high and that once she started sobering
up, she then decided whether she wanted to get high again.
Mother's Parenting Skills in the Texas Drug
testified that she worked at a group home doing laundry and
housekeeping for five or six months and that her children
were watched by the people she was living with who were
dealing cocaine and marijuana. When asked what steps she had
taken to protect her children from the drugs, Mother admitted
that she did not do anything to keep her children away from
the cocaine and the marijuana that was in the house where
they were living.
testified that John's behavior and anger was worse than
other two-year-olds and was different than anything she had
ever seen. Mother said that when John did not get his way, he
tended to throw things, hit people (without regard to their
size or their age), "mess up" televisions, throw
dirt in kids' hair, take stuff from kids, or bite them.
When asked if she had ever tried to teach John not to hit
people or how to calm down, Mother said that she had talked
to him about not hitting people but that a two-year-old boy
"ain't just going to take that and run with
that." Mother said that she did not ever seek any
professional help for John. Mother said that she had tried to
handle John by giving him juice or popsicles, by letting him
watch Spiderman, or by taking him to the park until he fell
admitted that John was a handful for her and that she had
left a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old girl in charge of him
when he played outside. Mother did not think that the
teenager could more effectively handle John than she could.
The Drug Raid
Adam Deweber with the Denton Police Department testified that
he was familiar with Mother and John's father based on
numerous tips in the summer of 2017 regarding drug activity
at their residence. Based on the tips, Detective Deweber used
a confidential informant who made multiple purchases of crack
cocaine at Mother and John's father's residence. The
last controlled purchase was made in September 2017, and the
person who sold the drugs to the confidential informant was
"Little Man," who is John's father. Detective
Deweber then obtained a search warrant for the residence, and
Denton Police Department's tactical team executed the
search warrant around 9 a.m. on September 22, 2017.
the tactical team secured the home, Detective Deweber was
present for the search of the home. Detective Deweber
testified that John's father had voluntarily told him
that he had a nine-millimeter handgun in his possession and
that it was located on the dresser next to his bed.
John's father was arrested on a warrant for manufacture
and delivery of under one gram of cocaine, and Mother was
arrested for endangering a child. Detective Deweber explained
that the endangerment charge was due to Mother's
"keeping her kids in a known drug house where drugs were
being used and sold that ultimately ended in a tact[ical]
raid[, ] which put those kids in danger." Detective
Deweber testified that the children were in danger because it
is "not a safe environment to have kids in a house where
drugs are being used and sold."
The Department Takes Possession of the Children
Darthard, an investigator with the Department, testified that
she was assigned to respond to the drug raid in which Mother
and John's father were arrested. When Darthard arrived on
the scene, six adults were handcuffed in the backyard, and
four or five children were running around. The police told
Darthard that they had conducted controlled purchases of
drugs from the home, that the children were present during
the purchases, that cocaine was accessible to the children,
and that there were guns in the home.
spoke with Mother, who was crying and upset. Darthard's
understanding was that Mother lived in the drug house because
she did not have anywhere else to stay after she and her
children had moved to Texas. Mother told Darthard that she
knew drugs were being sold out of the home but that she did
not want to report it because she did not want to be a
snitch. Mother denied knowing that there were guns in the
told Darthard that she was using marijuana "[a]ll the
time. Every day." Mother indicated to Darthard that she
had an anger-management problem and said that was one of the
reasons that she used marijuana daily. Mother explained that
she used marijuana because it helped her with her attitude
and with staying calm when her children screamed, which they
did "a lot of." Mother agreed to take a drug test
and stated that she would test positive for marijuana. Mother
said that she did not use any other drugs. Mother signed an
acknowledgement of substance abuse and admitted that she had
abused substances in the children's presence.
spoke with John's father who said that he had moved to
Texas in March or April 2017. He took responsibility for the
situation and admitted to selling and using drugs. John's
father said that his and Mother's most recent marijuana
use was the day before they were arrested.
Darthard entered the home, she encountered piles of trash,
piles of clothes, holes in the wall, dirty dishes in the
kitchen, flies everywhere, and "food and stuff
everywhere." The police pointed out to Darthard a scale
and cocaine that were on the table. Darthard also noted that
the children did not have beds to sleep in. Darthard
testified that the children's living conditions were
deplorable, posing a safety hazard, and agreed that the home
was not a place to raise children. Darthard believed that the
children were endangered by living in a home where drugs were
testified that a coworker took possession of the children on
September 22, 2017. The children were taken for drug testing,
and based on the results of the drug tests, the Department
had further concerns. The children were placed in foster care.
Mother's Release from Jail
her arrest on the day of the drug raid for two counts of
child endangerment-one count based on Jane and one count
based on John-Mother spent two or three days in jail. Her
mother came from Michigan to bail her out. Mother also
received financial help for meeting her $25, 000 bond from
the people she was living with.
The Department Learns that John's father Is Not ...