In re G.C., 284 N.C. App. 313 (2022)

Vacated and Remanded
There is a dissent
by Griffin, J.
  • Facts: The juvenile was adjudicated neglected based on stipulations that addressed the underlying facts related to mother’s previous DSS cases with her two older children, and the death of the parents’ infant, who was the younger sibling to the juvenile who is the subject of this action. Mother’s older children had been adjudicated abused, neglected, and dependent and had been in DSS custody since 2017. In 2019, mother was convicted of misdemeanor child abuse related to these 2 older children. In 2020, mother placed the youngest juvenile in a pack and play with blankets and bottles and found him unresponsive. He died and the autopsy report could not rule of death by asphyxiation. The court adjudicated the juvenile neglected and father appeals, arguing mother’s prior conviction and previous DSS cases involving her older children do not support current or future neglect regarding this juvenile.
  • G.S. 7B-101(15) authorizes the court to consider whether the juvenile lives in a home where another juvenile has died because of suspected abuse or neglect or another juvenile has been subjected to abuse or neglect by an adult who regularly lives in the home. The trial judge has discretion to determine how much weight to give that evidence, but an adjudication of neglect cannot be based solely on prior DSS involvement related to other children. There must be clear and convincing evidence that current circumstances present a risk of physical, mental, or emotional impairment to the juvenile. There must be other factors to suggest the neglect will be repeated.
  • There were no findings of harm of substantial risk of harm to the juvenile as a result a lack of proper care, supervision, or discipline.  There were no findings of other factors that indicated a risk of harm to this juvenile. Remanded to determine whether facts to support neglect adjudication can be found by clear and convincing evidence.
  • Dissent: The other factors relied on were the circumstances of the death of this juvenile’s younger sibling while under mother’s supervision. Although there is not a specific finding of substantial risk of harm, it is not error since the record contains evidence on this issue.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
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