In re B.E., 381 N.C. 726 (2022)

  • Facts: In 2017, the juveniles were adjudicated neglected and dependent based on parents’ domestic violence, substance use, homelessness, and failure to provide adequate supervision. Later in 2017, respondents were arrested on charges of drug trafficking. Ultimately, father was convicted and incarcerated. In 2019, DSS filed a TPR petition. The court terminated both parents’ right. Both parents appeal the grounds and argue the court erred in determining there was a likelihood of future neglect.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(1) authorizes a TPR when a parent neglects their child, including failing to provide proper care, supervision, or discipline or creating an injurious living environment. When a parent and child have been separated for a long period of time there must be prior neglect and the likelihood of future neglect based on the changed conditions at the time of the TPR hearing.
  • Father argues the court erred in not considering his ability to participate in services while he was incarcerated and challenges findings of fact. The findings are supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence – the social workers’ testimony. The one unsupported finding is disregarded. Incarceration, although not by itself a basis to TPR, is relevant, and “the extent to which a parent’s incarceration . . . support[s] a finding of neglect depends upon an analysis of the relevant facts and circumstances, including the length of the parent’s incarceration.” 381 N.C. at 737-38 (citation omitted). The court considered father’s incarceration as a relevant factor after finding facts about father’s behavior over the course of the case which includes times when he was not incarcerated. This includes father’s actions resulting in his arrest, his domestic violence against mother when he had been released from prison, his minimal progress on his case plan when he was released, and his not seeing or speaking with his children since 2017. The court also found it was likely the parents would reunite after father was released and their history of domestic violence and drug dealing made them unsafe to parent.
  • Mother challenges findings of fact that are supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence – social workers’ testimony. Mother also argues she made significant progress so that there was no longer a likelihood of repetition of neglect.  Although mother made progress, both social workers and the GAL had concerns about mother’s ability to parent all her children as she would get overwhelmed. Mother’s progress was insufficient to show there was not a likelihood of repetition of neglect. Mother does not challenge the finding regarding the likelihood the parents would reunite when father was released from prison and that there drug dealing and domestic violence makes them unsafe to parent.
Termination of Parental Rights
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