IN THE INTEREST OF R.R., JR. A CHILD
Appeal from the 387th District Court Fort Bend County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 18-DCV-253527
consists of Justices Wise, Jewell, and Poissant.
Margaret "Meg" Poissant, Justice
R.R. ("Father") appeals the trial court's final
decree terminating parental rights to his son, R.R., Jr.
("Ryan") and appointing the Texas Department of
Family and Protective Services (the Department) as sole
managing conservator of Ryan. The trial court terminated
Father's parental rights on predicate grounds of
endangerment, failure to complete a family service plan, and
conduct that resulted in conviction and imprisonment for not
less than two years and an inability to care for the child.
See Tex. Fam. Code § 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E),
(O), and (Q). The trial court further found that the
termination of Father's rights was in the child's
best interest. Tex. Fam. Code § 161.001(b)(2). The
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 child's
best interest. Because we conclude the evidence is legally
and factually sufficient to support the trial court's
judgment, we affirm.
The Department's Pretrial Removal Affidavit
2018, when Ryan was twenty-two months old, the Department
received a referral alleging Ryan's mother
("Mother") was neglectful in supervising Ryan.
Specifically, the referral stated that Mother and another
woman, Father's cousin, were selling drugs, including
crack, cocaine, hydrocodone, and marijuana out of their home.
The two women were also alleged to have been conducting a
prostitution business out of their home. These activities
were allegedly occurring in the presence of Ryan and the
cousin's children. It was further alleged that Mother hit
Ryan with her open hand and a belt, causing him injuries. The
report also stated Ryan was left outside unsupervised and
that there was no food in the home.
receipt of this referral, a Department investigator met with
Mother. Mother said she had three other children of whom she
lost custody. Mother explained that she was charged with
child endangerment in 2013 and that she was diagnosed with
bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder,
psychosis, and insomnia. Mother said Father was incarcerated.
Mother agreed to submit to drug tests. The drug test returned
positive for marijuana and phencyclidine (PCP). In her
affidavit, the caseworker averred that the Department could
not locate any family members or contacts who were willing to
care for Ryan-this was later disputed at trial by
Father's cousin and his girlfriend. The trial court
appointed the Department temporary sole managing conservator
of Ryan. The Department placed Ryan with his current foster
family shortly after he was removed from Mother's home.
commenced eleven months after the Department removed Ryan
from Mother's care.
testified that he had been incarcerated for over two years at
the time of trial. Ryan was eight months old when Father went
into prison. Father further testified that he was
incarcerated as the result of pleading guilty to two separate
charges. He entered a plea of guilty to a family violence
assault charge against Mother. This charge stemmed from an
incident alleged to have occurred in April 2016, at which
time Mother was pregnant with Ryan. Father admitted he pled
guilty to assaulting Mother but denied the assault happened.
Father claimed he entered the guilty plea to the charge of
assaulting Mother in order to reduce his sentence on his
guilty plea to evading arrest, which was allegedly committed
after Ryan was born.
asked how many times he had been charged with domestic
assault, Father responded that he could not remember, but
said he had been to prison for domestic assault three times.
Father confirmed that he had prior domestic assault charges
from: (1) 2004, against his sister, (2) 2006, two counts
against an ex-girlfriend, and (3) 2009, against another
also confirmed that he had been charged with evading arrest,
drug possession, burglary, criminal mischief, and assault
causing bodily injury. Father testified that he has been in
and out of jail for the last twenty-one years and estimated
he had been incarcerated for "a little over fourteen
testified that he was "hurt" when he found out that
Ryan had been taken into Department custody. According to
Father, he has been doing everything he can from prison to
comply with the trial court's orders to get his son back
and was not notified until March or April regarding the
possibility of family member placement for Ryan. Father
explained that if he is not paroled, then he has twenty
months left on his sentence.
testified that Mother was sober while they were living
together. Father confirmed that he was aware that Mother had
a history with the Department, and that her three other
children had been removed from her custody. Father knew
Mother suffered from numerous mental health conditions,
including bipolar disorder and depression, as well as seizure
disorder, and testified that while they were together Mother
did not consistently take the medication she was prescribed.
Father testified that he was shocked to learn Mother tested
positive for PCP, although he did know she had a history of
using drugs. Father confirmed he has been unable to send his
son financial support or gifts because of his incarceration.
However, he sends cards, drawings, and letters to Ryan.
took classes, obtained certifications, and completed
parenting classes, and at time of trial was waiting to hear
his scores on his testing to obtain his GED. He was asked,
but refused, to sign an affidavit of relinquishment, and said
he would never sign one. He testified he sent forms to CPS
for placement of Ryan with his cousin, "Adam."
further testified that he wants Ryan to be placed with
Father's cousin Adam and his girlfriend of 14 years,
until he is released from prison, which he testified could be
as early as 2020 if he is granted parole. According to
Father, he has already been denied parole twice. Father
explained that after twenty-one years of crime, he is ready
to make a change. He said that he will return to his previous
job at a home repair company when he is released from prison
and that he has family members with whom he and Ryan can
Kinney, an investigative supervisor for the Department,
testified that she received a priority one referral alleging
neglectful supervision of Ryan in July 2018 by Mother.
Specifically, the referral stated Mother was selling drugs
and prostituting out of the home where Ryan lived.
Additionally, there were allegations of physical abuse. When
Kinney met with Mother, she learned that Mother had three
other children who had been removed from her care. Mother
also had served previously a 180-day sentence for child
endangerment. Kinney testified that Mother agreed to take a
drug test after the investigation began. The test returned
positive for PCP and marijuana. Kinney confirmed Father was
incarcerated when this investigation began.
Lee, a conservatorship worker for the Department, testified
that one of the first things she did when she received this
case was to send Father a parenting packet explaining that
his son was in the Department's custody and what would be
required of Father. Lee testified that Father did not notify
her of any potential placements for Ryan until December 2018.
At that point, Father requested that his cousin, Adam, and
Adam's girlfriend, "Amy," be considered as
potential placements for Ryan. Lee testified that she called
Adam seven times and never got a response. Four months later,
in April 2019, Adam called Lee and told her that he was busy
and would call her later. Lee said she never heard back from
Adam. The first time Lee heard from Adam was at a hearing in
this case two-and-half weeks before trial. Lee testified that
she spoke with Adam, who said he was busy and did not get her
that hearing, Lee conducted a preliminary home study on Adam
and Amy for potential placement. The Department's program
director denied Adam and Amy's home study based on a
prior CPS history of Amy which occurred in 2009. According to
Debra Lee, Amy was charged with abandonment of her child, was
incarcerated for three days, and the charges were dismissed.
Lee testified that her supervisor denied the home study
because of the 2009 Department investigation of Amy but
admitted there had been no other referrals since that time.
preliminary home study indicated that the couple had five
other children in their home. The couple planned for Ryan to
share a bedroom with one of his cousins. The family has an
adequate number of bedrooms for all the children. The report
indicated the couple was willing to become a permanent
placement for Ryan.
further testified that when Ryan came into the
Department's care, he was having temper tantrums, night
terrors, and suffering from an intense fear of the dark.
Additionally, Ryan had a severe lice infestation. Since Ryan
has been in foster care, his temper tantrums have decreased,
along with his fear of the dark and his night terrors.
Ryan's lice problem was remedied after a three-week
course of treatment. Ryan has been attending daycare and
going to a "Little Gym" class that he enjoys. He
has been learning how to count and knows his colors. Ryan
appears bonded with his foster parents and loves his family
pets. Ryan enjoys helping to feed the dogs. The foster
parents have been helping Ryan with his emotional issues and
have been researching to prepare themselves for any emotional
issues he may suffer in the future as a result of the trauma
he suffered in Mother's care. Lee testified that the
foster parents are ready and willing to permanently adopt
Ryan if given the opportunity.
testified that she was concerned about Father's extensive
history of violence. Lee confirmed she does not ...