In re J.L., 264 N.C. App. 408 (2019)

Affirmed in Part
Vacated and Remanded in Part
  • Facts: After filing a petition alleging neglect and dependency, DSS obtained nonsecure custody of a newborn and placed the child with Mr. and Mrs. C (foster parents). After adjudication, the initial disposition continued custody with DSS, who continued the child’s placement with Mr. and Mrs. C. In a permanency planning order, custody with DSS continued (as did DSS’s placement with Mr. and Mrs. C); reunification efforts with mom were ceased; and a primary plan of guardianship with a court-approved caretaker and secondary plan of adoption was ordered. Mother’s visitation was ordered for one hour of supervised visits/month. At a subsequent permanency planning hearing, DSS and the GAL recommended a change in placement to foster parents who had adopted two of the child’s older half-siblings. Although not parties, Mr. and Mrs. C as the current placement provider testified, and the court permitted their counsel to facilitate their testimony on direct examination. Two experts testified. The expert procured by Mr. and Mrs. C and called by the child’s GAL attorney advocate was directly examined by Mr. and Mrs. C’s counsel. The permanency planning order awarded guardianship to Mr. and Mrs. C. and ordered that mom have no in-person visits with the child but could have telephonic communication that was monitored by Mr. and Mrs. C. Respondent mother appeals.
  • Role of foster parents and their attorney. With limited exceptions, a foster parent is not a party to the action but the court is statutorily required to consider information from any person providing care for the juvenile and any other person that aids in the court’s review. G.S. 7B-401.1(e1), (h); -906.1(c). “The trial judge has inherent authority to supervise and control trial proceedings. The manner of the presentation of the evidence is largely within the sound discretion of the trial judge and his control of a case will not disturbed absent a manifest abuse of discretion.” Sl. Op. at 10 (citation omitted). Mother did not show an abuse of discretion when the court permitted Mr. and Mrs. C’s counsel to (1) facilitate their testimony by direct examination and (2) as requested by the child’s GAL attorney advocate conduct the direct and redirect of the expert witness. Mr. and Mrs. C were not permitted to intervene, and their counsel did not present other witnesses, introduce exhibits, cross-examine witnesses, make objections, or present closing arguments as a party is permitted to do. “This holding is limited to the specific facts of this case.” Sl. Op. at 12.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
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