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-1102(c) authorizes the trial court on its own motion or motion of a party to consolidate a TPR and A/N/D action that is filed in the same judicial district and involves the same juvenile.
    • Mother had notice that a permanent plan was at issue through the notice and motion of the TPR, where a permanent plan of adoption was recommended, and “in a hearing where a parents’ rights in their child are subject to termination, the parent has necessarily been informed that the child’s permanent plan is at issue.” 377 N.C. at 252.
  • G.S. 7B-901(c) includes an aggravating factor to cease reunification efforts when the parent’s conduct increases the enormity and adds to the consequences of neglect. The court’s determination this factor existed was supported by the evidence that mother failed to acknowledge her child died from abuse, colluded with father to provide an explanation, and maintained her relationship with the father.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Disposition (All Stages Post-Adjudication)
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