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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Berena Tijerina, 27, had six children, all but the oldest fathered by 28-year-old Eric Jovon King, whom she had dated off and on since high school but never married. Tijerina voluntarily relinquished her rights to her oldest child, and both she and King voluntarily relinquished their parental rights to two of their five children. In February 2004, when the youngest child, “Sa,” was 8 months old, day care workers noticed a red mark along the length of Sa’s cheek. Tijerina offered several, contradictory explanations for how the mark got there, some of which included Sa’s interaction with “Sh,” who was 19 months old at the time. The daycare center called Child Protective Services, who removed Sa and Sh from their parents’ custody that day. At the time of their removal, both children had lice and were wearing the same clothes and diapers they had worn the day before. The daycare director said at a later hearing that the daycare frequently used its own diapers, clothing, baby wash and lice treatment products to care for the children, and that Tijerina told them she did not have money to buy diapers. The director said that she told Tijerina about things she needed to do to better care for the children but felt that the mother was not effective. The daycare director also said at the hearing that she believed Sa was developmentally delayed, but that Tijerina said he was fine. The director described Tijerina as paranoid and unstable. She also noted that she never saw King at the facility, though Tijerina sometimes brought a man other than King to the center and identified him as the father of her children. Hollie Martinez, a CPS worker, told of conversations she had with Tijerina’s mother and aunt, both of whom said the children were dirty, looked as though no one cared for them and that Tijerina was lazy and negligent. An early childhood intervention specialist found Sh to be developmentally delayed, though the girl improved with therapy. The foster mother for the two children Tijerina and King previously relinquished told of similar speech-development delays in those children when they first came to live with her, and how they have improved. She confirmed that Sh had emotional problems when she first came to live with them. Another specialist who worked with Sa found he was most likely mentally retarded, and though he would improve some, the specialist believed he would always be delayed for his age. Sa’s foster mother said Sa had improved some in her care, but that he would need occupational therapy. A clinical forensic psychologist diagnosed Tijerina with Asperger’s Disorder, a form of autism that affects an individual’s ability to pick up on social context and causes the individual to “over focus” on certain behaviors. The psychologist said it would be difficult for Tijerina to deal with a child with substantial psychological, emotional or physiological problems. Though rehabilitation was suggested, Tijerina refused. The same psychologist worked with King and found that he was dependent on alcohol and abused marijuana. King refused offers of treatment, as well as anger management classes, saying he did not have a problem. The psychologist saw King’s view as one where the children were supposed to meet his needs, rather than him meeting their needs. Counseling with the couple, individually and together, proved unsuccessful. For example, Tijerina denied she was pregnant with the couple’s fifth child until just two weeks before the child was born. Neither had steady work, neither acknowledged their children’s problems, and neither understood why the children were being removed from Tijerina’s care. Martinez prepared a service plan that included parenting classes, family counseling, drug assessment and random drug tests, weekly visitation with the children and psychological evaluation. Tijerina completed the plan, but still had problems keeping a job and understanding the children’s problems. King did not complete his plan and he lied about not living with Tijerina in her Section 8 apartment; he, too, disagreed that they children had problems, insisting that they live with Tijerina and he would visit them. CPS filed a petition to terminate Tijerina’s and King’s parental rights, saying the pair had knowingly placed or knowingly allowed their children to remain in conditions that endangered their physical or emotional well-being, or engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the children with persons who engaged in conduct that endangered their physical or emotional well-being, and termination was in the children’s best interest. The preceding testimony was elicited at a hearing in the case. The trial court granted the petition. HOLDING:Affirmed. On appeal, Tijerina and King argue that the evidence shows the children’s problems are genetic and not caused by anything they did. However, the evidence shows that Tijerina and King did not acknowledge and lacked “insight” into the children’s developmental delays and failed to take action. Though Tijerina completed all and King completed most of their service plans and the parenting classes and made most of the visits with the children, both still exhibited limited parenting skills, did not understand the issues involved in the children’s developmental needs, and had not changed since CPS’ intervention. Also, the children were dirty regularly and often had lice. Although King saw the children regularly, he did not take any action, instead leaving them in their condition with Tijerina. King failed to complete court-ordered anger management classes and drug treatment, and several witnesses testified to Tijerina’s dishonesty. “Although a close case, we conclude Mother’s and Father’s conduct jeopardized the children’s health and development, thus endangering their physical or emotional well-being.” The court then looks at the evidence supporting the trial court’s finding that termination of rights would be in the children’s best interest. Noting the children’s developmental delays, and how they would need constant intervention, the court points out that Tijerina has limited parenting abilities, gets overwhelmed and does not acknowledge the children’s problems. The parents’ relationship with each other and their living situation were unstable, and Tijerina’s Asperger’s Disorder would limit her ability to respond to her children’s needs. OPINION: Jim Moseley, J.; Wright, Moseley and Lang, JJ.

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