In re C.P., ___ N.C. App. ___, 812 S.E.2d 188 (2018)

Held: 
Affirmed in Part
Remanded
Reversed in Part
Vacated in Part
  • Procedural History:  This case originally involved two children who were adjudicated neglected and dependent, and that adjudication and following disposition was appealed. The adjudication was reversed and remanded in the published opinion In re K.P., 790 S.E.2d 744 (2016). Since that first appeal, one child (K.P.) reached the age of majority, and the case proceeded for C.P., a juvenile. On remand, the trial court held an “adjudication/disposition and permanency planning hearing” where the child was adjudicated neglected and dependent and guardianship was awarded to the child’s adult sibling. The adjudication, dispositional, and permanency planning order was appealed. That appeal was heard and decided in an unpublished opinion dated January 2, 2018. This published opinion results from a petition for rehearing pursuant to Rule 31 of the N.C. Appellate Rules and replaces the unpublished January 2, 2018 opinion.
  •  The trial court did not err in holding the adjudication, initial dispositional, and permanency planning hearings on the same day as it is not forbidden by the Juvenile Code.
  •  The court of appeals distinguished reunification as a permanent plan from reunification efforts. In interpreting the language of G.S. 7B-906.2(b) that “reunification shall remain” a primary or secondary plan absent certain findings, the initial permanency planning order must include reunification as one of the concurrent permanent plans. Although the trial court found that “reunification efforts… would be futile” and that the mother “presents a risk to the health and safety of the juvenile,” which are findings under G.S. 7B-906.2(b) that authorize the elimination of reunification as a concurrent plan, the statutory language “shall remain” requires the trial court include reunification as part of the initial permanent plan. Vacate portion of the order that failed to include reunification has a permanent plan. However, recognizing that it is bound by a prior published opinion of the court of appeals, In re H.L., 807 S.E.2d 685 (2017), reunification efforts may be ceased at the first permanency planning hearing if certain findings are made. The findings in this case support the trial court’s conclusion that reunification efforts may be ceased. Affirm portion of order ceasing reunification efforts.
    • Author’s Note: This opinion does not discuss how to apply the language in G.S. 7B-906.2(b) that requires the trial court to order DSS to make efforts toward finalizing the primary and secondary permanent plans when reunification efforts have been ceased but reunification must be a permanent plan at the initial permanency planning hearing.
Category:
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Stage:
Disposition (All Stages Post-Adjudication)
Topic:
Concurrent Plan
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