In re Interest of A.P., NUMBER 13-19-00342-CV

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas
Docket NumberNUMBER 13-19-00342-CV
Decision Date26 November 2019


NUMBER 13-19-00342-CV


November 26, 2019

On appeal from the 156th District Court of San Patricio County, Texas.


Before Chief Justice Contreras and Justices Hinojosa and Tijerina
Memorandum Opinion by Chief Justice Contreras

The trial court terminated appellant Mother's parental rights to her daughters A.P. and A.V.1 By three issues, Mother argues that: (1) her constitutional due process rights and statutory rights under the Texas Family Code were violated, (2) the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support termination under § 161.001(b)(1)(N) and

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§ 161.001(b)(1)(O) of the Texas Family Code, and (3) the evidence is insufficient to support a finding that termination was in the best interest of the children. We affirm.


On May 29, 2007, the Department of Family and Protective Services (the Department) received a referral alleging the neglectful supervision and physical neglect of A.P. and A.V. by Mother. The referral alleged that the children were often left unsupervised or in the care of other children, that Mother was prostituting herself for food and money, and that Mother would smoke marijuana in front of the children. It was also reported that other family members in the house were either using cocaine or selling their resources for drugs. The report described that the children in the home had lice and would sometimes go without food. The Department received reports alleging abuse and neglect of the children throughout 2008 and also in 2012.

On April 18, 2013, the Department received another report alleging the physical abuse of A.P. by two unknown alleged perpetrators and the neglectful supervision of A.P. by Mother. The report also alleged that A.V. had scabies and that A.P. had a "BB" gun pellet embedded in her head. In May 2013, the Department filed a suit affecting parent-child relationship due to abuse or neglect of the children and removed the children from Mother's care. See TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 262.104 (providing that the Department may take possession of a child in an emergency without a court order); see also id. § 262.001(a) ("A governmental entity with an interest in the child may file a suit affecting the parent-child relationship requesting an order or take possession of a child with court order as provided by this chapter."). On May 16, 2014, the trial court signed a final order appointing Juan Sandoval and Eulalia Sandoval as permanent managing conservators.

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On June 25, 2018, the Department removed the children from the Sandovals' home due to allegations of abuse and neglect and filed another suit requesting that the Sandovals be removed as managing conservators, that the Department be assigned as the temporary managing conservator for the children, and that Mother's parental rights be terminated. The Department filed a motion to consolidate the new case with the previous trial cause number that resulted in the appointment of the Sandovals as managing conservators. On July 3, 2018, the trial court signed an order consolidating both causes.

After removing the children from the Sandovals, the Department placed them in a foster home with Rhonda Brown because they could not go back to Mother. However, the relationship between the children and Brown deteriorated due to Mother's contact with the children through social media. The Department then removed the children and placed them with a third family.

Trial began in June of 2019 and evidence was presented that, in July 2018, Mother was provided with a family service plan detailing the actions she needed to complete in order to be reunited with both girls and avoid the termination of her parental rights. In particular, the family service plan required Mother to: submit to random drug testing; cooperate with the Department and demonstrate knowledge of skills learned; maintain contact with the children as ordered by the court; participate in supervised visits; pay any ordered child support; have a stable living environment that is free of domestic violence, clean, safe, and drug free; complete substance abuse counseling and follow all recommendations; complete a mental health assessment and follow all recommendations; complete a psychosocial assessment and follow all

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recommendations, including individual counseling; and complete parenting classes and demonstrate the appropriate parenting skills attained. The service plan was incorporated into a court order on August 17, 2018.

Mother was thirty-one years old at the time of trial, had not worked since she was fourteen years old, and stated she had not lived with the children for nine years.2 She testified she completed her mental psychosocial assessment, substance abuse course, mental health assessment, and parenting classes. The psychosocial assessment recommended psychiatric services and resuming medication management to stabilize Mother's diagnoses; however, Mother had not taken her medication and was planning on picking it up from the pharmacy after the trial.3

As to her drug use and the required drug tests, Mother stated she began using cocaine when she was eight years old and that she tested positive for cocaine in July, September, and November of 2018. Mother failed to take a drug test as required in August, October, or December of 2018 or any months between January and June of 2019. Mother stated that she had last used cocaine two weeks before trial, had not stayed in touch with her caseworker, and had not had any contact with her children.4 Mother could not recall when she last visited the children, but she testified that it had been over a year.

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Mother explained she had not visited the children because she lacked transportation from her home in Taft, Texas to where the visitations were held in Sinton, Texas.5

When asked about her plans for the children now and in the future, Mother stated she "just want[s] them to finish school and graduate and have a good job." She testified she would get a job if the children were returned to her and that she would quit using cocaine. According to Mother, the girls tell her that they love and miss her and want to come home and live with her in Taft. Mother testified she lives in a two-bedroom apartment with her grandmother. When asked where the children would sleep if they were returned to her, Mother responded that they would sleep in two beds in the second bedroom in the apartment and she would sleep on the couch. Mother admitted that her plans regarding her work were all in the future and that nothing was taking place at the current moment.

Jennifer Edgehill, the caseworker with the Department assigned to the case, also testified at trial. According to Edgehill, Mother had not maintained contact with the Department for the five months preceding trial. Mother contacted Edgehill "from over ten different phone numbers" and when Edgehill would call back, those numbers were out of service or it appeared the calls were made through a wireless app.

Edgehill explained Mother had lived in two different homes since she had been assigned to the case in January 2019 and that Mother currently lived with her grandmother in a clean two-bedroom apartment. However, according to Edgehill, it would not have been appropriate to place the girls there because grandmother had one of her other grandchildren, a child, already living there in addition to Mother. Edgehill stated,

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"So there was a bedroom that was taken up already by a child, then [grandmother's] bedroom, and then [Mother] on the couch." Further, "grandmother has validated C.P.S. [abuse or neglect] history with [A.V.] so the Department would not consider that to be a safe environment."

As to the visitation requirement in the plan, Edgehill testified that Mother did not consistently attend her visits when she had lived in Sinton, the same town where the girls were located at the time. Mother then moved to Taft and continued to fail to attend her visits consistently. Mother would often confirm her visit but would cancel twenty minutes before it was due to start, causing a lot of disappointment and emotion in the children. In February 2019, Mother texted Edgehill and informed her she no longer wanted to attend any of her visits because she did not have reliable transportation. Edgehill testified that Mother had not demonstrated a good faith effort to fulfill the visitation requirement.

Edgehill confirmed Mother completed her substance abuse assessment in October 2018, but that Mother admitted to using cocaine in January 2019. As a result, Edgehill made a referral for relapse prevention counseling, but the provider told Edgehill that Mother informed the provider that "she would not be participating in any further services." Mother did not complete the relapse prevention program. Mother also did not provide the Department with a certificate of completion for her parenting classes or take a drug test since November 2018, as required by the service plan.

According to Edgehill, the children are currently in an approved home study placement and have expressed to her "clearly and directly that they would like to be adopted by this family." Edgehill also explained that the children did not want to live in Taft because they were afraid of the Sandovals, who also live there. In the foster home

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with Brown, the children "had been on social media, had stolen phones from the foster mother and had been [inappropriate] on social media . . . ." Edgehill explained:

Primarily, the girls had expressed that they would be on social media and their mother would get in contact with them and would make them false promises; that they would come home and that they were going to be a family again, and that would cause a rift between the girls and their foster mother because she couldn't combat that as much as she really wanted to. The girls

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