In re Interest of G.M., 08-22-00030-CV

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas
Writing for the CourtYVONNE T. RODRIGUEZ, Chief Justice
Citation649 S.W.3d 801
Parties In the INTEREST OF G.M., a Child.
Docket Number08-22-00030-CV
Decision Date21 June 2022

649 S.W.3d 801

In the INTEREST OF G.M., a Child.

No. 08-22-00030-CV

Court of Appeals of Texas, El Paso.

June 21, 2022


ATTORNEY AD LITEM: Alison Gutierrez, 3609 Montana Ave., El Paso, TX 79903.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: Celia Villasenor, 1113 E. Yandell Drive, El Paso, TX 79902.

ATTORNEY REAL PARTY IN INTEREST: Orlando Torres, Law Offices of Orlando Torres, 1216 Montana, El Paso, TX 79902.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: Eric Tai, Office of General Counsel, TDFPS, MC: Y-956, 2401 Ridgepoint Dr., Bldg. H-2, Austin, TX 78754.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR THE CHILD: Guardian Ad Litem For The Child, c/o Jennifer Garcia, CASA of El Paso, 221 N. Kansas St., Ste. 1501, El Paso, TX 79901.

Before Rodriguez, C.J., Palafox, and Alley, JJ.

OPINION

YVONNE T. RODRIGUEZ, Chief Justice

649 S.W.3d 805

Appellant R.M. ("Mother")1 appeals a trial court's judgment terminating her parental rights to daughter G.M. Mother contends the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the termination of her parental rights.2 We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

I. Background

The trial court held a final hearing on January 10, 2022. Counsel representing Mother and Father both requested a continuance due to the lack of contact with their clients, which the trial court denied.

Testimony at the final hearing established, in 2019, the Department of Family and Protective Services ("Department") became involved in an investigation in which G.M. alleged O.I., Mother's boyfriend, sexually abused her, and whether Mother provided neglectful supervision of G.M. The Department validated the sexual abuse allegations against O.I. and Mother was "ruled out" for neglectful supervision of G.M. After the sexual abuse allegations were validated, Mother assured the Department she would not allow O.I. to have contact with G.M.

On January 26, 2021, the Department became involved yet again in an investigation involving G.M. after police responded to a domestic violence call involving Mother and O.I. O.I. told the responding officer, Officer Cervantes, he called 911 because he and Mother had been arguing since the day before and he wanted her out of the house. Officer Cervantes testified Mother stated she and O.I. were arguing about whether he was being unfaithful. Mother alleged O.I. prevented her from obtaining his cell phone by striking her with a phone charger cord. Mother also claimed O.I. blocked her when she attempted to run into the restroom, and he smashed her hand in the doorway. O.I. was arrested at the scene. When Officer Cervantes ran a warrant check on O.I. and Mother, she discovered O.I. had an outstanding warrant for a sexual assault charge involving Mother's daughter, G.M., and Mother had outstanding traffic warrants. Because Mother was also arrested, a decision was made where G.M. could be placed. Mother mentioned she had a son, but G.M. could not be placed with him because Mother reported G.M. was afraid of him. Due to the circumstances, officers notified the Department. The Department filed its Original Petition and obtained temporary managing conservatorship on January 27, 2021.

Mother's sister, M.L.S., testified her niece, G.M., had been placed with her in Seminole, Texas since June 2021. M.L.S. stated through her conversations and text exchanges with Mother, she learned Mother had been using methamphetamines to lose weight. M.L.S. received Mother's latest admission Mother was using methamphetamines the Friday before the trial. Although Mother told her sister she could stop using methamphetamines at any time, M.L.S. believed Mother was unable to stop.

M.L.S. said she addressed O.I.’s sexual abuse of G.M. with Mother. Mother told her sister, she knew O.I. had "touched [G.M.] down there," however, Mother continued her relationship with O.I. M.L.S. testified even though Mother knew G.M. was not allowed to be in contact with O.I., Mother kept moving G.M. back in with O.I. M.L.S. stated based on Mother's refusal to

649 S.W.3d 806

end her relationship with O.I., she believed G.M. would not be safe living with Mother.

M.L.S. reported G.M. had not visited Mother, Mother had not asked for a visit with G.M., further, G.M. had not expressed any desire to visit Mother. Mother rarely spoke with G.M. via telephone or video calls and their only regular contact was through sporadic texts. M.L.S. also relayed since G.M. began living with her, G.M. was very happy, her grades were better, and she was participating in therapy. M.L.S. explained she and her husband did not have children and were committed to taking care of G.M. M.L.S. testified it was in G.M.’s best interest for Mother's parental rights to be terminated.

Jessica Canales testified she served as the caseworker in Mother's case until November 2021 and was familiar with the services that Mother was asked to complete pursuant to the service plan that Mother signed. Specifically, Mother was asked to participate in parenting classes, complete an outreach, screening, and referral ("OSAR") assessment, participate in substance abuse treatment, submit to random drug testing, participate in domestic violence classes, and visit with G.M. Mother failed to participate or complete the service plan requirements. Mother reported she was unable to participate in the required services because of her ongoing relationship with O.I. According to Mother that relationship involved domestic violence and O.I. did not allow her to participate in services. Ms. Canales testified Mother spoke about O.I. a great deal and he would take Mother to her visits with G.M.

Mother visited G.M. in person when G.M. was placed in an El Paso foster home. When G.M. was placed with her aunt in Seminole, Texas, Mother was given an opportunity to visit with G.M. virtually daily. Mother often missed the in-person and virtual visits either. Mother stated she was shielding G.M. from Mother's drug withdrawal process, or because she needed to take a nap, or due to Mother's migraine headaches. Eventually, the scheduled video calls were replaced with phone calls and sporadic text messages. During Mother's phone calls with G.M., the Department constantly redirected Mother because she would comment on G.M.’s weight, speak of the situation at home, and ask case-related questions.

Ms. Canales stated during her monthly meetings with Mother, Mother reported she used methamphetamines to lose weight. Mother told Ms. Canales she did not need substance abuse treatment and Mother acknowledged she needed to stop using drugs. Ms. Canales offered Mother housing and travel assistance, but Mother told her that assistance was unnecessary because she had an apartment and a vehicle. Ms. Canales attempted to assess the condition of Mother's apartment and vehicle, but Mother refused. Ms. Canales told Mother discontinuing her relationship with O.I. would be in G.M.’s best interest. Initially, Mother claimed she was unaware of the sexual abuse allegations. Mother expressed anger at O.I. for abusing G.M. and wanted O.I. to be arrested. However, Mother later reported she reunited with O.I. because she was financially dependent on him and he paid for her vehicle.

Ms. Canales stated initially Mother agreed with G.M.’s placement with Mother's sister, but later changed her mind. Ms. Canales believed G.M.’s placement was going very well, as she had an established relationship with her aunt and uncle, continued to have contact with other family members, had made several friends. G.M. continued to have telephone contact with Mother, which was the type of contact that was in G.M.’s current best interest.

Martina Murillo testified she had been the caseworker in Mother's case for the

649 S.W.3d 807

last five months. She was familiar with the service plan Mother had agreed to and testified Mother had not engaged in any of the requested services, which included parenting classes, a psychological evaluation, random drug testing, parenting classes, an OSAR assessment, and a psychological assessment. Mother told Murillo she had not engaged in services because demons were not allowing her to do so. Mother also reported she was still in a relationship with O.I. and she could not leave him because he supported her financially. Ms. Murillo testified she tried to assist Mother with services by offering her transportation assistance and following up with Mother to see how she was doing. Mother told Ms. Murillo she continued to use methamphetamines because she is stressed out and had no intention of stopping. During Murillo's tenure as Mother's caseworker, Mother had no in-person visits with G.M. and her communication with G.M. was only with random texts. Ms. Murillo believed Mother had constructively abandoned G.M., as she failed to visit G.M. and maintain a substantial relationship with her daughter. Ms. Murillo opined Mother's parental rights should be terminated.

On cross-examination, Ms. Murillo stated G.M. lived with her aunt in Seminole, Texas, which was about a four-hour drive from El Paso. She admitted the Department had not brought G.M. to El Paso so she could visit with her Mother.

The Court-Appointed Special Advocate recommended termination of Mother's parental rights because Mother had not...

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