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In re A.K.C.K.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

January 7, 2020


          On Appeal from the 315th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause Nos. 2002-02794J, 2017-05186J

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Christopher and Bourliot.


          Frances Bourliot Justice.

         In these accelerated appeals, a mother seeks reversal of the trial court's final decrees terminating her parental rights to her two daughters. She challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's findings on one predicate termination ground and its finding that termination of her parental rights is in the best interest of the children. We affirm.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         T.D.F. ("Mother") and C.K. ("Father") are the natural parents of A.K.C.K. ("Anne") and I.G.K. ("Iris"), the two children at the center of this termination suit.[1]At the time of trial, Anne was seventeen years old, and Iris was fifteen years old. The trial court terminated both Mother's and Father's parental rights to their children. Father has not appealed.

         Anne and Iris were both living with Mother's eldest child "Diane" at the time of trial. Anne previously had been living with a foster family. At trial, the trial court preadmitted the appointed child advocate team leader's report and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Service's permanency report. The team leader recommended terminating Mother's parental rights because of (1) her long history with the Department, beginning in 1991 regarding her care of Diane; (2) her failure to participate in the family service plan; (3) allegations of emotional abuse and physical neglect of both Anne and Iris; and (4) the girls' success in their current placement with their older half-sister. Specifically, the report states that both girls are very happy with Diane and that Diane would like to adopt them. According to the report, "[Diane] has been very involved in the girls' care, is very pleased to have them in her home and a part of their family." Diane recently moved into a larger home to provide more space for the girls. Anne is thriving in school and beginning the college search process. Iris has shown increased confidence and improved grades since moving in with her sisters.

         Mother testified that this investigation was the result of a retaliation effort by Anne's foster parents. Mother explained they were angry she had unenrolled Anne from her high school. Mother said Anne split her time evenly between the foster family and her own home. The foster family lived in the district where Anne attended school. The foster family also provided financial support for Anne. Mother testified that the family did not want Iris, only Anne.

         Mother denied that she ever has had any mental health issues. Mother said she never has been prescribed medication for her mental health. She confirmed that she has undergone mental health evaluations as a part of the Department's investigation.

         Mother maintained that the foster family was "framing" her. When asked about the prior Department investigations, Mother said that "people just randomly like to use CPS [Children's Protective Services] as a revenge and they just call, make false calls." Mother confirmed that she has warned her children about a person she used to date who is on trial for being a witch because this person may be a danger to their family.

         Mother testified that she did not believe Anne and Iris were getting all their needs met in Diane's home because they need their mother. When asked whether she was aware that the girls requested not to have visitation with her, Mother said she believed that was not true and that the whole case was a conspiracy. Mother further confirmed that she had given the caseworker photos of women whom Mother believed were practicing witchcraft to harm her and her family. Mother testified that a family meeting with the Department and the foster family was staged by the foster parents and the Department "to have [Anne] have her way, or the godparents have their way."

         Demetrias Byrd, the Department's conservatorship worker, testified that the girls are doing "great" in their placement with Diane. Iris, who had previously struggled with school, had achieved "A and B" honor roll and increased self-confidence since moving into Diane's home. According to Byrd, Diane always has wanted to adopt the girls, but was just waiting for the girls to come around on their own. Byrd testified that when the case began, both girls were very sad, confused, and felt displaced. The girls benefitted from the court order directing that they have no visitation with Mother. Without Mother in their lives, the sisters were able to have a routine and stability without fear that Mother would interrupt. Byrd believes that the girls "kind of found themselves throughout this case." Anne has her eyes set on college within the next few years, and Iris is also beginning to think about college.

         Byrd testified that Mother had not complied with her service plan. Specifically, Mother had not complied with the psychiatric portion or provided proof of housing. Byrd explained that the Department is concerned because Mother takes no responsibility for her actions. Mother cites the foster parents and "witchcraft" as the reasons for her daughters being removed from her care. Byrd testified that she attempted to obtain Mother's medical records but Mother would call the providers and "curse[] them out." Mother threatened to sue the providers if they shared her medical information. The providers informed Byrd that they did not want to get involved. When asked to describe Mother's behavior throughout the course of the case, Byrd responded, "hostile, belligerent, aggressive to me, every worker, every provider, not pleasant." Byrd further testified that Mother had been hostile and aggressive to Anne during the investigation.

         The court appointed child advocate team leader from Child Advocates testified that she had been involved with this family since 2008 and that there was no visitation in this case because of Mother's erratic behavior, including threatening behavior toward caseworkers and a hostile email sent to Anne in 2017. According to the team leader, Child Advocates recommended terminating Mother's parental rights so that the girls may be adopted by Diane. The team leader explained that Mother has not shown she can provide a safe or stable environment for Anne or Iris.

         The team leader also testified that Mother had acted erratically towards her agency, specifically stating:

[She] called my volunteer several names. She sent several threatening emails to our organization on our website as well as personal emails to the volunteer and CC'd her attorney and them, telling us not to contact her, telling us that we're liars and that we're going to pay for what we've done, that we're part of the witchcraft that the caseworker and the ad litem has participated in - just a bunch of erratic angry emails that are very concerning.

         The team leader further explained that Mother's emails are abusive and full of profane language.

         According to the team leader, the girls have greatly improved since moving into Diane's care. Anne has continued to thrive in school, and Iris has made a remarkable turn-around and is also excelling in school. Both girls have told the team leader that they would like to be adopted by their sister Diane. According to the team leader, Anne lives in continual fear that Mother will come back for her like she used to do with the foster family. Child Advocates concluded that termination of Mother's parental rights would give Anne and Iris greater stability through adoption.

         The trial court signed two orders terminating Mother's parental rights to each child with a finding by clear and convincing evidence that Mother endangered the children and failed to comply with the court ordered service plan and it would be in ...

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