In re I.N.C., 374 N.C. 542 (2020)

  • Facts: In 2014, the children were adjudicated neglected. In 2016, DSS filed a TPR petition, After a hearing, although the grounds were proved by DSS, the TPR was dismissed because the trial court determined it was not in the children’s best interests due to there not being a strong likelihood of adoption. In 2018, the parent’s rights to visitation were suspended due to their inappropriate behavior and the children’s ongoing behavioral problems being attributed in part to the long-term uncertainties they were experiencing. DSS filed a second TPR petition, which was granted. Respondent mother and respondent father appeal, challenging the court’s disposition that concluded the TPR was in the children’s best interests.
  • Standard of review of a best interests determination is an abuse of discretion.
  • Under G.S. 7B-1110(a) the court made findings of relevant factors including that there was a likelihood of adoption as long as the children continue to receive services. This finding is supported by the evidence, including the GAL’s, social worker’s, and adoption specialist’s testimony. The testimony addressed (1) the need to TPR, which would increase the children’s chances for adoption, (2) the children’s desire for a home they could call their own as they lost confidence in being able to return home, (3) that the children were adoptable even though they had behavioral issues, and (4) that the children were able to form bonds with other people.
  • “[T]he responsibility for weighing the relevant statutory criteria delineated in N.C.G.S. 7B-1110(a) lies with the trial court, which ‘is permitted to give greater wiehg to other factors,’ rather than with this Court.” Sl.Op. at 14. The appellate courts do not reweigh the evidence and make an independent determination on appeal.
  • This case is distinguished from In re J.A.O., 166 N.C. pp. 222 (2004). In J.A.O., the juvenile had been foster care since he was 18 months and was placed in 19 different treatment centers over 14 years for his significant mental health issues; his mother had made reasonable progress to correct the conditions that led to the TPR petition; and the GAL believed the child’s best interests would not be served by a TPR and that he was unlikely to be adopted. In contrast, the children in this case were 9 and 10 years old when the TPR was granted; their behavioral issues are not as severe as those exhibited by J.A.O.; the GAL believed TPR was in their best interests; and the parents had not made reasonable progress 5 years after the children
Termination of Parental Rights
Best Interests Findings
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