In re A.A.S., ___ N.C. App. ___, 812 S.E.2d 875 (2018)

Held: 
Affirmed
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(2) authorizes the termination of parental rights when (1) a child has been willfully left by the parent in foster care or placement outside of the home for more than 12 months and (2) the parent has not made reasonable progress under the circumstances to correct the conditions that led to the child’s removal.
  • Willfulness requires that the parent had the ability to show reasonable progress but was unwilling to make the effort and is not precluded when a parent has made some efforts to regain custody of his or her child. It does not require a showing of fault.
  • Although respondent mother made “sporadic efforts,” the findings of fact regarding her failed and diluted drug screens, inability to engage in safe and appropriate visits, and lack of progress supported the court’s determination that the mother willfully left the children in foster care for more than 12 months and failed to make reasonable progress regarding two of her children.
  • Regarding her third child, the findings are supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that there was prior neglect (the child was adjudicated neglected) and a likelihood of repetition of neglect. G.S. 7B-1111(a)(1). Specifically, the court found the mother needed an additional support person to assist her in safely parenting but was unable to identify any such support person, she repeatedly failed drug screens, DSS had to intervene during supervised visitations because of her inappropriate behavior, and she had not complied with her case plan.
  • Findings about whether DSS made reasonable efforts toward reunification are required at permanency planning hearings and are not required at a TPR. Even though they are not required, DSS provided reasonable efforts for reunification through the creation and implementation of a case plan, the provision of bus passes, supervising visitation, and arranging for drug screens. Such efforts are not required to be exhaustive.
Category:
Termination of Parental Rights
Stage:
Adjudication
Topic:
Findings
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