In re. J.N.J., 286 N.C. App. 599 (2022)

  • Facts:  The juvenile in this action was born prematurely and was admitted to the NICU. He is a medically fragile child, requiring a breathing tube and ventilator, 24-hour-a-day supervision (so 2 full-time caretakers), and an environment free of smoke and smoke residue (home, car, personal contact). The homes of both mother and father smelled of smoke, and both parents admitted to being smokers. Father did not complete any medical training, and mother completed only some medical training. Neither parent provided names of two appropriate caregivers to care for the juvenile. When the juvenile was 6 months old and still in the NICU, DSS filed a petition alleging neglect based on lack of proper care and supervision and an injurious environment as well as dependency. After a 2-day hearing, the juvenile was adjudicated neglected and dependent and after the initial dispositional hearing, was placed in DSS custody. Mother appeals the adjudication and disposition.
  • Mother argues the court erred by applying the best interests of the child test without first addressing whether mother was unfit or acted inconsistently with her parental rights and this issue is automatically preserved as a constitutional argument under App. Rule 10(a)(1). This argument was rejected by In re J.N., 381 N.C. 131.  Mother failed to raise this argument at the adjudicatory or dispositional hearing despite having an opportunity to do so. Her argument that she could provide a safe permanent home and wanted in-person visitation with her child was insufficient. She did not argue that leaving her child in DSS custody violated her constitutional rights. Mother waived this argument for appellate review.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Disposition (All Stages Post-Adjudication)
Parent’s Rights
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