IN THE INTEREST OF A.A.C., A.E.C, E.S.C. AKA E.C., JR., CHILDREN
Appeal from the 312th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2017-25634
consists of Justices Wise, Jewell, and Poissant.
E.C. ("Father") appeals the trial court's final
decree terminating parental rights to his children A.A.C.
("Ada"), A.E.C. ("Ally"), and E.S.C.
("Eddy") and appointing the Texas Department of
Family and Protective Services (the "Department")
as the children's sole managing conservator. The trial
court terminated Father's parental rights on predicate
grounds of endangerment, failure to complete a family service
plan, abuse of a controlled substance, and criminal conduct
that resulted in conviction and imprisonment for not less
than two years and an inability to care for the children.
See Tex. Fam. Code § 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E),
(O), (P) and (Q). The trial court further found that
termination of Father's rights was in the children's
best interest. See Tex. Fam. Code § 161.001(2).
Father challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the
evidence to support the trial court's findings on all
predicate grounds and that termination is in the
children's best interest. Because we conclude the
evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support the
trial court's judgment, we affirm.
April 2017, J.V. ("Velma"), the children's
aunt, filed a petition in suit affecting the parent-child
relationship on the grounds "the child/ren's present
circumstances will significantly impair (harm) the
child/ren's physical health or emotional
development." In the petition, Velma asked for general
relief but did not request any specific form of relief
regarding custody, possession, or access.
Department became involved when it received a referral of
neglectful supervision on September 21, 2017, because K.A.
("Mother") abandoned the children, ages 5, 3 and 1,
at Memorial Herman Northwest Hospital. Mother had sought
treatment for nausea and alleged vomiting. After telling
hospital staff that she was going to the lobby to retrieve
something, Mother left the premises and never returned. After
waiting at the hospital for two hours, the children were
taken to a Department office. Mother was a resident of Santa
Maria Hostel and seeking treatment for a methamphetamine
addiction. Because Mother left the children at the hospital
unsupervised, failed to arrange for their care, was being
treated for drug addiction, and had not contacted the
Department or sought to be reunited with the children, the
Department was given temporary conservatorship of the
children. At the time of this incident, Father was
Department prepared family service plans for both Father and
Mother, which both signed in October 2017. In September 2018,
however, the Department filed a petition for conservatorship
and termination of parental rights. The court conducted a
bench trial in March and June of 2019. The trial court's
final order terminated Father's and Mother's parental
rights to all three children.
witnesses at trial were Amanda Quintero, the Department's
caseworker from September 2017 until December 2018; Mario
Munoz, the caseworker at the time of trial; Father, who
appeared by telephone from jail; and Seth Charna, the foster
Department introduced evidence of Father's criminal
history. Father was incarcerated from October to December
2016. He pled guilty to family violence assault, received
deferred adjudication, and was placed under community
supervision for three years. Mother was the complainant in
that case and the assault occurred in the presence of or near
the children. That was Father's second assault charge-in
2004, he was convicted of committing assault against a person
with whom he was in a dating relationship.
State filed a motion to adjudicate guilt in July 2017. Among
other allegations, the State asserted Father committed
trespass and used cocaine, as evidenced by two drug tests in
May and June of 2017. As a result, Father was again
incarcerated from August to October 2017. The court granted
the motion to adjudicate, signed a judgment adjudicating
guilt in May 2018, and sentenced Father to two years'
confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice,
Institutional Division. Father was in jail as a result of
this adjudication from May 2018 through trial in this case.
in September 2017, the State charged Mother with felony
possession of a controlled substance and she was released to
Houston Recovery Center. The children, who were periodically
in the care of Velma and "numerous" other
relatives, returned to Mother's care. Less than one week
later, Mother abandoned the children at the hospital. The
children stayed at Kidz Harbor before placement with a
paternal cousin, "Louise," but Louise never
intended to be a permanent caregiver. The children were then
placed with "Sally," a different paternal cousin.
The family caregivers asked for the children to be removed.
The Department was unable to find any other family members to
care for the children. Velma was given an opportunity to have
the children placed with her, on the condition that her
husband pass a drug test, but the test never occurred. The
Department did not place the children with Velma because of
her husband's criminal history of possession of a
controlled substance, and Velma removed herself as a
potential relative to care for the children. Father's
mother and sister were also considered. However, the paternal
grandmother was on probation and the paternal aunt had an
adult son who has a criminal history residing in her home.
Mother did not offer any additional person with whom the
children could be placed. When Quintero left the case in
December 2018, the Department could not locate any family to
accept placement of the children.
October 2017, Quintero met Mother at the jail on the same day
she visited Father at the jail. Quintero reviewed with Mother
and Father their respective family plans of service. Both
signed their plan. When Quintero asked Father why he was
incarcerated, Father said he was not certain but that he
"woke up" arrested and was told it was because he
committed aggravated assault.
had several phone and text conversations with Mother. Mother
said she would meet with Quintero but never did. Mother did
not perform any of the tasks on her family service plan and
did not visit with the children during the time Quintero was
the case worker. Mother told Quintero that she would complete
the plan but could not provide Quintero with an address or
phone number where she could be reached after her release.
Quintero provided Mother with Quintero's contact
information, but Mother never contacted Quintero before he
left the Department. At the time of trial, Quintero did not
know Mother's whereabouts. Mother never alleviated the
concerns that brought the children into care.
testified that before Mother abandoned the children, Velma
was the person caring for them, not Mother or Father. Since
2017, neither Mother or Father had cared for the children.
Quintero stated that Mother left the children "in an
endangering circumstance" and "endangering
environment." Mother had no home of which Quintero was
aware, and Quintero had no idea of Mother's whereabouts.
April 2018, Mother's bond was revoked because she failed
to report to the program required on her bond. In October
2018, Mother pled guilty to possession of cocaine and was
sentenced to nine months in the Harris County Jail. When