In re A.H.F.S., 375 N.C. 503 (2020)

  • Facts: The juveniles had been adjudicated neglected in two separate actions (one in 2016 where the juveniles remained in the home and one in 2017 where the juveniles were removed) due to substance use, mental health issues, and conditions of the home. DSS initiated a TPR, which was granted. Respondent parents appeal, challenging the grounds. This appeal focuses on failure to make reasonable progress under the circumstances to correct the conditions that led to the juveniles’ removal, the second prong of G.S. 7B-1111(a)(2).
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(2) authorizes a TPR when the parent has willfully left the juvenile in a foster care or other placement for more than 12 months without making reasonable progress under the circumstances to correct the conditions that led to the child’s removal. Willfulness involves a parent’s ability to show reasonable progress but an unwillingness to make the effort. 
  • Regarding the conditions of removal, respondent mother is collaterally estopped from relitigating issues determined by the underlying neglect adjudication order, which included findings addressing the conditions of removal, from which she did not appeal.
  • Findings that mother failed to complete her substance abuse therapy, demonstrate skills learned in parenting classes, attend the majority of the children’s medical appointments, have a safe and appropriate home, and submit to the majority of her drug screens; had positive drug tests; was convicted for drug offenses, and had untreated mental health issues support the conclusion that mother failed to make reasonable progress. Challenged findings were supported by evidence. The determination of willfulness by the court is supported by clear and convincing evidence and sufficient evidentiary findings of fact.
  • Although respondent father made some progress, it was not reasonable progress. The court found the home and yard were cluttered with safety hazards; the home has been broken into; the condition of the home is inappropriate for the children; father has not demonstrated how he has benefitted from the parenting classes; and father did not attend the majority of the children’s medical appointments. The findings are supported by clear and convincing evidence. Although father made some progress including completing individual therapy and attending visitation, the primary condition leading to the children’s removal were not remedied and are not based solely on father’s continued relationship with mother.
Termination of Parental Rights
Willfully Leaving Child in Foster Care or Other Placement
Click on a term below for additional case summaries tagged with the same term.