In re A.W., 377 N.C. 238 (2021)

  • Facts: In 2017, the respondent’s 2-month-old infant died of blunt force injuries while in respondents’ care. Her death was ruled a homicide, and father was incarcerated on charges related to her death. In 2018, the juvenile in this action was born to respondent parents and DSS filed a petition alleging neglect and dependency that stated her sibling died while in the respondents’ care as a result of suspected abuse and neglect. Also in 2018, DSS filed a motion to terminate both parents’ parental rights on the grounds of neglect and dependency. The court adjudicated the juvenile neglected and dependent, ceased reunification efforts, and eliminated reunification as a permanent plan. A separate order terminated mother’s rights on both alleged grounds. Mother appealed the adjudication and disposition orders in the court of appeals and the TPR order in the supreme court. The NC Supreme Court granted a motion to consolidate the actions on appeal.
  • G.S. 7B-101(9) defines a dependent juvenile as one whose parent, guardian, or custodian (1) is unable to provide care and supervision and (2) lacks an appropriate alternative child care arrangement. Both prongs must be addressed by the court.
    • The court reasonably inferred mother was unable to properly care for and supervise this juvenile due to the death of her other child by non-accidental means and her continuing relationship with the father while he was charged in that child’s death.
    • There was not an appropriate alternative child care arrangement. Although several individuals were suggested by mother, none of them believed the sibling’s injuries resulting in her death were anything but accidental. From that evidence, the trial court reasonably inferred that these individuals would not be appropriate as they would not follow a safety plan and provide a safe environment.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
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