Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth
Appeal from the 323rd District Court Tarrant County, Texas
Trial Court No. 323-107788-18
Sudderth, C.J.; Birdwell and Bassell, JJ.
Sudderth Chief Justice
three issues, Appellant Mother appeals the termination of her
parental rights to her child, M.R. Because the evidence
supports the trial court's findings in favor of
termination, we affirm.
has had seven biological children. The three oldest children
were removed from Mother's care by a California agency
and placed for adoption; they are now adults. Three more
children were removed by the State of Texas, and Mother's
parental rights were terminated for knowingly placing or
allowing the children to remain in conditions or surroundings
endangering their physical or emotional well-being and for
engaging in conduct or knowingly placing the children with
persons engaging in conduct which endangered the
children's physical or emotional well-being. See
Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E). This case
regards Mother's seventh child, M.R.
time that Mother gave birth to M.R. in July 2018, she was
married to Husband, who is not M.R.'s biological father,
Mother had been homeless for nine or ten months. The
Department of Family and Protective Services (the Department)
was referred to Mother and M.R. on the day of M.R.'s
birth because of Mother's previous history with the
Department. The Department removed M.R. from Mother's
care on the day after M.R.'s birth.
The Department's investigation
Overn investigated the case on behalf of the Department, and
Sarah Vinet acted as Mother's Child Protective Services
(CPS) caseworker. Both testified at trial, identifying
several areas of concern regarding Mother's ability to
care for M.R.: Mother's history of domestic violence, her
troubling behavior around M.R., her mental-health issues, her
illegal drug use, and her lack of a stable residence and
Mother's involvement with domestic violence
testified to Mother's history of violence, of which Overn
was familiar because she had investigated domestic-violence
allegations during the Department's removal and
termination proceedings regarding two of Mother's older
children. According to Overn, Mother and Husband both
acknowledged instances of domestic violence. Overn related
Husband's description of two specific instances when
Mother had assaulted him when he and Mother had been sleeping
on the street because he did not want to cuddle with her.
While Overn did not personally witness any physical abuse
between Mother and Husband, Overn testified that
"[t]here was a lot of yelling." For instance, Overn
described a verbal altercation when Husband repeatedly told
Mother to "shut up" when Mother was explaining to
Overn that she "had to keep [M.R.] or she would not have
a place in the shelter she was wanting to go stay at."
Overn testified that domestic violence is worrisome because
it could result in physical and emotional harm to the
testified that she had discussed Mother's history of
domestic violence with Mother, and although Vinet had
requested that Mother participate in domestic-violence
classes, Mother had refused.
Mother's trial testimony, she denied any domestic
violence had occurred between her and Husband or between her
and the father of two of her other children. When Mother was
confronted with her 2018 deposition testimony that her
previous husband had assaulted her at least 22 times, she
denied testifying that he had assaulted her. Instead, she
claimed that they "had many accidents together"
that involved blood and getting hurt but that he never
punched or hit her. She described him as "the most
loving, calm, nondrug using father that you would ever
meet" and "a great father."
most of the testimony on the topic of violence and criminal
charges focused on Mother's involvement in
domestic-violence incidents with her partners, Overn also
testified to her review of CPS records that included a report
of Mother's 2010 arrest after she physically blocked a
caseworker's exit from a daycare parking lot.
Mother's behavior around M.R.
described her first encounter with Mother and M.R. at the
hospital shortly after M.R.'s birth:
When I first walked into the room [Mother] continued asking
me and the nurse that was in the room to drug test the baby,
and she kept trying to hand us the baby. When I explained
that that's not something that I do and explained that
the nurses already have done that, she continued trying to
hand me the baby to the point where her arms were very far
out over the bed and it was concerning to me that she was
going to drop the baby so I did hold the baby and get the
baby from her.
to Overn and Vinet, after M.R. was removed and Mother's
interactions with M.R. were limited to supervised visitation
sessions, Mother made no progress in demonstrating her
ability to be a safe parent. Overn described Mother's
first visit with M.R.:
During the first visit, I had an observer helping me out
watch that visit [between Mother and M.R] while I was making
some phone calls. She had let me know that she felt very
uneasy about [Mother] holding the baby. She was not very
steady. And so I was bringing the car seat to the visit room
so we could have the baby sit in the car seat. As I was doing
that, when I turned the corner to look into the room, [M.R]
was face down in [Mother]'s lap with her face in a
blanket and so I went and picked up [MR] and I made a rule
that [M.R.] had to sit in the car seat unless there was a
worker standing right next to her while she was holding
recurring theme from Overn's and Vinet's observations
was Mother's preoccupation with her phone and her refusal
to put the phone down during the visitation sessions. Overn
testified that at one visit, two of Mother's other
childrenwere also there, and Mother appeared
"very uneasy, just appeared to not know how to hold
[M.R.] and was constantly on her phone and [Mother] allowed
[her eight-year-old child] to hold [M.R] and [that child] was
holding [M.R.] better than [Mother] was." Overn noted
that Mother was constantly on her phone and "very easily
distracted by stuff that was on her phone or taking pictures
of something on her phone to where she would come close to or
almost drop [M.R.]"
described another incident when Mother arrived at visitation
wearing a neck brace and attempted to feed M.R. while holding
the baby bottle with her chin and trying to use her phone at
the same time. Vinet reported that the bottle fell out of
M.R's mouth repeatedly, causing M.R. to scream, and
Mother "would put the bottle back in her mouth while
[M.R] was screaming and she would choke on the formula."
When Vinet asked Mother to put the phone down, explaining
that "this was time she needed to spend with
[M.R]," Mother refused. After Vinet threatened to cancel
the visit if she did not get off the phone, Mother complied
by setting the phone on the table and putting it on
speakerphone while she continued her telephone conversation
about going to Whataburger for lunch afterwards. Vinet again
warned Mother that if she did not hang up the phone, the
visit would be ended, at which point, Mother "grabbed
[M.R.], ran to the corner," and told Vinet she wanted to
call police because Vinet and the other caseworkers were
kidnapping her child. Vinet testified that Mother was holding
M.R. so tightly that it took two security guards to pry M.R.
free from Mother's arms.
incident was reported to Overn, who testified that M.R. was
three months old at the time and that Mother's tight
squeeze had left "red marks on [M.R's] body."
According to Overn, M.R. was taken to the emergency room
immediately after that visit, where it was confirmed that
there were no broken bones or injuries resulting from the
incident. Nor did the red marks leave any bruises on M.R.
testified that she was also concerned by other behavior
Mother exhibited during visitations with M.R.:
[W]hen [Mother] would be in the visit with [M.R.], if [M.R.]
started to cry, she would just kind of zone out and she would
twirl . . . her bangs and it's like she couldn't
focus on [M.R] or console her. She would be trying to feed
[M.R.] She would take the bottle in and out of her mouth
saying that she needed to learn to fight for her food. She
would insist that [MR] was only crying because she could
smell the yeast in her breast milk and just couldn't
console her. So we - during the visits we would have to take
the baby from her, console the baby and as soon as she was
consoled, give her back and then she would start screaming
again and she would again zone out and I tried to get
[Mother] to kind of come back to us and like read a book to
her but she couldn't soothe her.
Mother admitted at trial that "quite a few times"
she attempted to sneak unrefrigerated, unfrozen breastmilk to
M.R. during visitation appointments despite being prohibited
from doing so due to food-safety concerns. At trial, Mother
attempted to justify her ...