In re J.A.K., ___ N.C. App. ___, 812 S.E.2d 716 (2018)

Held: 
Affirmed in Part
  •  G.S. 7B-1111(a)(2) authorizes a termination of parental rights when the parent willfully leaves the child in foster care for over 12 months and has not made reasonable progress to correct the conditions that led to the child’s removal from home.
  • The relevant 12 month period starts when the trial court enters a court order requiring that the child be removed from the home, which in this case was the nonsecure custody order, and ends when the TPR petition or motion is filed. This 12-month time period applies even when a respondent in the TPR was the “non-removal parent” and did not appear in the underlying abuse, neglect, or dependency action until after the child’s adjudication and almost one year after the nonsecure custody order was issued.
  • Willfulness exists when the respondent has an ability to show reasonable progress but was unwilling to make the effort; it does not require a showing of fault. Willfulness may be found even when the respondent has made some efforts to regain custody of his child as limited progress is not reasonable progress.
  • The trial court determines the weight to give to evidence and the reasonable inferences to draw and reject from the evidence. The findings made by the trial court are supported by the evidence and are sufficient to support the TPR based on G.S. 7B-1111(a)(2). The findings show the father made limited progress by completing parenting classes but failed to make progress on a major component of his case plan, which was to obtain independent and appropriate housing.
Category:
Termination of Parental Rights
Stage:
Adjudication
Topic:
Willfully Leaving Child in Foster Care or Other Placement
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