In re A.P.W., 378 N.C. 405 (2021)

  • Facts: The juveniles were adjudicated neglected in 2017 due to circumstances involving lack of proper care and supervision and an injurious environment stemming from inappropriate housing and their parents’ substance use and criminal activity. In 2019, a permanency planning order (PPO) eliminated reunification as a permanent plan, and the court noted that each parent, through counsel, preserved the right to appeal. No written notice to preserve the right to appeal was filed. DSS filed a TPR petition, which was granted. Each parent appealed the TPR order and filed a petition for writ of certiorari to review the PPO, which was allowed.
  • Standard of review of PPO is whether there is competent evidence to support the findings and whether the findings support the conclusion. The dispositional order is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. An order eliminating reunification appealed with the TPR is considered with the TPR order.
  • The record on appeal does not include a transcript or narrative of the permanency planning hearing. The appellate court “presume[s] the findings made by the trial court are supported by competent evidence.” 378 N.C. at 411. Any challenged findings in the PPO that are based on evidentiary grounds cannot succeed.
  • To eliminate reunification as a permanent plan, the court must make certain statutory findings, but it need not use the exact statutory language so long as the substance of the statute’s concerns are addressed. Sufficient findings were made to address the substance of G.S. 7B-906.1(d)(3) and -906.2(b). In reading the PPO with the TPR orders, sufficient findings were made to address the substance of G.S. 7B-906.2(d)(1)-(4). The “findings adequately explain the basis for [the court’s] determination that there were no realistic prospects for reunification” and that reunifying with father in the foreseeable future would be contrary to the children’s health, safety, and general welfare. 378 N.C. at 419.
  • G.S. 7B-906.2(c) addresses findings about the efforts DSS has made to achieve the primary and any secondary permanent plan and whether those efforts were reasonable. The PPO and TPR orders make detailed findings about DSS’s efforts to reunify the children with their father and address the statute’s concerns. There is no merit to father’s argument that the efforts were not reasonable because of his limited time with his children. The trial court, not DSS, conditioned father’s visitation with the children and DSS “is not obliged to defy the trial court’s orders.” 378 N.C. at 421.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Cease Reunification
Findings of Fact
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