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.
  • Visitation and the juvenile’s preference: At a permanency planning hearing, the court must consider information from the juvenile and the juvenile’s GAL. G.S. 7B-906.1(c). Although the court is not bound by the juvenile’s express wishes, the court must consider those wishes, particularly when the child is approaching the age of majority, as part of the totality of the circumstances. One of the GAL’s duties is to ascertain and convey to the court the juvenile’s express wishes. G.S. 7B-601(a). Here, this juvenile’s wishes were never sought or conveyed to the court – they were not included in the GAL report. Instead, the GAL provided outdated letters from the juvenile’s service providers which do not state his preference. This juvenile, who is old enough to seek emancipation, was not called to testify. As a 17 year old, “his opinion carries great weight.” Sl.Op. ¶59.  Violations of these two statutory provisions requires reversal and remand.
Category:
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Stage:
GAL for Child
Topic:
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