Texas Supreme Court OKs Termination of Alleged Prostitute's Parental Rights

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The Texas Supreme Court last week held that there was sufficient evidence for an alleged prostitute to lose her parental rights to her daughter.

A trial court had terminated the mother's rights to her daughter; the First Court of Appeals in Houston reversed the termination of her rights, but allowed the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to keep its appointment as sole managing conservator of the daughter.  The appeals court held that the evidence of “abuse or neglect” against the mother was insufficient to justify terminating her parental rights.

In partially siding with the mother, the Houston appeals court noted the lack of evidence suggesting any injury to the child in question as well as the fact that any other concerns related to another child, and not the for whom parental rights were terminated.

The Texas Supreme Court disagreed with the Houston court's approach.

To see how the abuse of the mother herself factored into the termination of her parental rights, read below the jump.  In summarizing what it felt were the relevant facts, the Texas Supreme Court devoted considerable attention to the fact that the mother was herself a victim of domestic abuse by a male roommate, who another roommate testified was the pimp for both the witness and the mother. Notably, the mother denied these allegations.

A DFPS case worker investigated; her investigation turned up no abuse or neglect of the child at issue, though it did find that around the time that the pimp abused the mother – sending her to the hospital – she had relinquished parental rights to her first child, who had presumably been living with the mother and her abuser.

The Supreme Court went on to use the mother's prior history with her first child to grant DFPS the authority to terminate the rights of the mother, citing, TEX. FAM. CODE § 161.001(1)(O) and a 2013 Texas Supreme Court case:

“[W]hile subsection O requires removal under chapter 262 for abuse or neglect, those words are used broadly. Consistent with chapter 262's removal standards, “abuse or neglect of the child” necessarily includes the risks or threats of the environment in which the child is placed. . . . If a parent has neglected, sexually abused, or otherwise endangered her child's physical health or safety, such that initial and continued removal are appropriate, the child has been “remov[ed]from the parent under Chapter 262 for the abuse or neglect of the child.”

The court then broadened the scope of its permissible inquiry to include a parent's treatment of prior children where, as here, there was no history of abuse or neglect with the child at issue.

The case is In the Interest of K.N.D., a Child, 13-0257.

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