In re I.J.W., 378 N.C. 17 (2021)

  • Facts: The juvenile was adjudicated neglected and dependent based on circumstances created by substance use by both parents and a lack of proper care and supervision. Initially, in a safety plan, the juvenile was placed with father, who obtained a DVPO against mother. Father maintained contact with mother and allowed her contact with the juvenile while they resided in a home that lacked running water, heat, and electricity. Father was ordered to comply with a case plan, and he initially made progress on that plan. He stopped making reasonable progress and disengaged from any services with DSS after a visit was ended because of his aggressive behavior toward the DSS social worker. The court ordered ongoing visitation was conditioned on father completing anger management, which father refused to do. DSS filed a TPR motion more than one year after father stopped working with DSS, had no visits, and did not file a motion to seek a modification of the visitation order. After the TPR was filed, father began to complete services. The TPR was granted and father appeals.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(7) authorizes a TPR on the ground of willful abandonment, with a determinative time period of the six months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR petition/motion. The findings of fact are supported by clear and convincing evidence and support the conclusion of willful abandonment. During the relevant six-month period, father had not visited with his child, refused to work on his case plan or with DSS, and did not make any effort to maintain a parental bond with his child. The court found his post-TPR-motion behavior of engaging in services showed he had the ability to comply previously but chose not to do so. His post-TPR-motion actions are outside of the determinative six-month time period and do not bar a TPR on the ground of abandonment.
Termination of Parental Rights
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