In re A.M., ___ N.C. App. ___, 786 S.E.2d 772 (2016)

Held: 
Remanded in part
Affirmed in Part
  • The definition of abuse includes “[a]ny juvenile less than 18 years of age whose parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker . . . [c]reates or allows to be created serious emotional damage to the juvenile…  evidenced by a juvenile’s severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or aggressive behavior toward [herself] or others.” G.S. 7B-101(1)e. The statute does not require a formal psychiatric diagnosis. 
  • Findings that the mother’s foul and abusive language created a toxic environment and that 16 year old A.M. felt hopeless about DSS’ involvement and helpless that anyone could help her or help her mother change her mother’s behavior, had anxiety, and that her coping method was to withdraw supported the court’s conclusion that the child was abused. The written findings do not need to quote the language of the statute (e.g., “serious emotional damage”) but must address the statute’s concerns, which these findings do.
  • Remand for findings based on evidence in the record of the 6 year old’s serious emotional damage. Evidence includes the testimony of a licensed psychologist that the child’s defiant behavior is related to the mother’s lack of structure or guidance, inconsistent discipline, and inability to be attuned to the child’s emotional needs. The testimony addressed the mother’s demeaning and offensive language that created a toxic environment where the child was subjected to chronic and acute verbal assaults that were part of this child’s normal everyday life.
Category:
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Stage:
Adjudication
Topic:
Abuse
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