In re A.B., ___ N.C. App. ___ (June 16, 2020)

  • Facts:  The juvenile was adjudicated abused, neglected, and dependent. At the time the petition was filed, the juvenile had been in father’s care. Father had been awarded custody and mother only saw the juvenile for approximately 12 hours over a 2-year period immediately before the A/N/D petition was filed. Respondent mother appeals the adjudication of abuse, arguing that the findings about mother were not supported by the evidence and the findings did not support the conclusions about the mother. The challenged finding and conclusion is that “the parents” and caretaker inflicted or allowed to be inflicted and/or created or allowed to be created a substantial risk of  serious physical injury by nonaccidental means.
  • Standard of review is whether clear and convincing evidence supports the findings of fact and whether the findings of fact support the conclusions of law. Conclusions of law are reviewed de novo.
  • Status of Child:  “When determining whether a child is abused, neglected, or dependent, ‘the determinative factors are the circumstances and conditions surrounding the child, not the fault or culpability of the parent.’ ” Sl.Op. at 7 (quoting In re Montgomery, 311 N.C. 101, 109 (1984)). Unlike a TPR, which addresses whether the parent’s conduct meets the criteria of a statutory ground to TPR, “[t]he purpose of abuse, neglect, and dependency proceedings is for the court to determine whether the juvenile should be adjudicated as having the status of abused, neglected, or dependent . . . . The purpose … should not be morphed on appeal into a question of culpability regarding the conduct of an individual parent.” Id. (quoting In re J.S., 182 N.C. App. 79, 86 (2007)).
  • Clear and convincing evidence support the findings, which support the conclusion that the juvenile is an abused juvenile. The evidence and findings detail Amy’s circumstances, which involved her starvation and victimization of child torture. These findings support the juvenile having nonaccidental, serious physical injury, “and thus the trial court properly determined [her] status as an abused juvenile.” Sl.Op. at 8. Mother's argument about the findings and conclusions is without merit.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
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