In re B.E., 375 N.C. 730 (2020)

  • Facts: The three children were adjudicated neglected and dependent in an underlying juvenile action. Mother and father were ordered to comply with their case plans. Eventually, DSS filed a TPR motion, and the TPR was granted on the grounds of neglect, failure to make reasonable progress, and dependency. Respondent mother challenges the grounds. This opinion focuses on the ground of neglect. 
  • Neglect requires a showing of neglect as defined by G.S. 7B-101(15) at the time of the TPR hearing (current neglect) or if the child has been separated from the parent for a long period of time, a TPR for neglect must be based on a showing of past neglect and a likelihood of future neglect by considering the evidence of changed circumstances given the history of neglect by the parents between the time of the past neglect and the TPR hearing.
  • The findings support the determination that there is a high likelihood of repetition of neglect if returned to respondent mother. Despite being ordered to not discuss the case with the children, mother has continued to do so in a way that has impeded their ability to make emotional progress. She does not have insight into the effects of father’s severe alcohol abuse and physical abuse on the children. Mother needs counseling for mental health issues but will not continue with counseling. The evidence (mother’s and social worker’s testimony) supports the findings. To the extent a portion of a finding is not supported, it is disregarded on review. There is a nexus between mother’s childhood trauma and her own parenting such that addressing her earlier trauma in mental health counseling was recommended, and the court’s consideration of her failure to do so as a factor in determining the likelihood of future neglect was not error. The court's consideration of the failed trial home placement with mother that occurred before the TPR was not error. Although mother made progress on the cleanliness of the home and completed parenting classes, she did not resolve the primary risk to the children – father’s continued presence in the home.
Termination of Parental Rights
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