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-1111(a)(1) authorizes a TPR on the ground of neglect.  When there is a period of separation between the juvenile and the parent, the court must find past neglect (which may include an adjudication of neglect) and a likelihood of future neglect based on evidence of any changed conditions at the time of the TPR hearing.
    • The determination that there is past and a likelihood of future neglect with mother, even though father is incarcerated, is supported by the evidence. Mother did not acknowledge the intentional injuries to her child resulting in her death, did not provide a plausible explanation for those injuries, continued her relationship with father, and without acknowledging the cause of death, DSS could not provide a plan to address the safety concerns in the home.



Termination of Parental Rights
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