In re H.L., 256 N.C. App. 450 (2017)

Affirmed in Part
  • Facts: DSS was involved with the family on multiple occasions because of domestic violence and substance abuse issues that impacted the child. The parents voluntarily entered into a safety plan where they agreed the child would stay with her adult half-sister as a safety resource placement and the parents would engage in clinical assessments, follow recommendations, and submit to random drug screens. Both parents tested positive for methamphetamines. DSS filed a petition. The trial court held a combined adjudication, initial disposition, and permanency planning hearing. The child was adjudicated neglected and dependent. DSS was relieved from providing reunification efforts, and guardianship was awarded to the child’s adult half-sister. Respondent father appeals the adjudication, award of guardianship at initial disposition, holding a concurrent review and permanency planning hearing, and visitation order.
  • Respondent father challenges the court’s authority to conduct a combined initial disposition, review, and permanency planning hearing as an attempt by DSS to circumvent providing reunification efforts. Respondent father waived appellate review of this issue as he received multiple notices that the hearing would be a combined hearing and did not object when the hearing proceeded.
  • At permanency planning, G.S. 7B-906.2(b) requires the court to make reunification a primary or secondary permanent plan and require reunification efforts until it makes a finding that efforts clearly would be unsuccessful or inconsistent with the juvenile’s health or safety, and this finding may be made at the first permanency planning hearing. The court’s findings that since the child has been in her safety resource placement the parents tested positive for methamphetamine and failed to complete services or make progress on their case plan support its conclusion that reunification efforts would be unsuccessful. Distinguishing the case from In re A.G.M, 241 N.C. App. 426 (2015), the court may consider the respondent’s failure to comply with a case plan that he voluntarily entered into before the petition was filed, even though there was no court order for him to participate in that plan, when considering whether reunification efforts would be (un)successful.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Disposition (All Stages Post-Adjudication)
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