In re J.C.-B., ___ N.C. App. ___ (March 16, 2021)

Held: 
Vacated and Remanded
  • Facts: This is the second appeal of a permanency planning order. This case started in 2017, when the juvenile was 13 years old and was adjudicated neglected and dependent due to his mother’s mental health and its impact on her parenting. He is now 17. Since the start of the case, he has been placed with his grandmother. In the first appeal, the permanent plan of custody with grandmother and transfer of the action to a Chapter 50 civil custody action pursuant to G.S. 7B-911 was vacated and remanded. While that first appeal was pending, mother and son started emailing one another and mother was ordered to not have contact with her son. On remand, the court ordered custody to grandmother, eliminated reunification as a permanent plan, and ordered no contact between mother and juvenile until recommended by the juvenile’s therapist. Mother appeals.
  • The standard of review of an order eliminating reunification is whether the findings are supported by credible evidence, whether the findings support the conclusion, and whether the court abused its discretion.
    • The findings are unsupported by the evidence and do not support the conclusion to eliminate reunification efforts and reunification.
    • G.S. 7B-906.2(c) requires the court to make findings about whether DSS’s reunification efforts were reasonable. Under G.S. 7B-101(18), reasonable efforts are required to be “diligent.” The efforts in this case “were not aimed at reunifying [the juvenile] with his mother.” Sl.Op. ¶41. Efforts to assess the juvenile’s well-being, although an important part of monitoring progress toward reunification, are not “concrete action steps” for reunification. DSS never requested an assessment of mother’s home in her new state. DSS moved to have the court discontinue all contact between mother and her son. The reunification efforts “were arguably non-existent.” Sl.Op. ¶45.
Category:
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Stage:
Cease Reunification
Topic:
Findings of Fact
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