In re B.T.J., 377 N.C. 18 (2021)

  • Facts: The juvenile was adjudicated neglected and dependent based on circumstances created in part by mother’s substance use. DSS filed a TPR petition, which was granted on the grounds of neglect and failure to make reasonable progress to correct the conditions leading to the juvenile’s removal. Mother appeals, challenging the grounds.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(1) authorizes the termination of parental rights on the ground of neglect, defined by G.S. 7B-101(15). The ground of neglect may be based on (1) neglect that is currently occurring at the time of the TPR hearing, or (2) if there has been a long period of separation between the juvenile and parent, prior neglect (which may include an adjudication of neglect) and the likelihood of future neglect based on evidence of changed conditions at the time of the TPR hearing. “Evidence of changed conditions must be considered in light of the history of neglect by the parents and likelihood of a repetition of neglect.” 377 N.C. at 23.
  • This case involves the second basis for neglect: prior neglect and likelihood of future neglect. Here, the juvenile was adjudicated neglected based on witnessing his mother’s overdose on heroin while in the motel room they lived in. Mother was ordered to participate in treatment and stabilize her housing situation. There are numerous unchallenged, and therefore, binding findings showing mother’s limited progress. The findings include months of mother testing positive for controlled substances after completing her inpatient treatment program even though she had no positive results in the 4 months before the TPR hearing; her inadequate housing (the lease limited the number of residents so the child could not reside there), and her unstable employment history. Her limited progress occurred immediately before the TPR hearing but were just first steps to address her issues, which were not enough to rectify the issues such that there would not be a likelihood of future neglect.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
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