In re J.R., 2021-NCCOA-491

Held: 
Remanded in part
Affirmed in Part
  • Facts: In 2019, the juveniles were adjudicated neglected and dependent. The petition was filed after one of mother’s children died by homicide where mother and her boyfriend were charged; the charges against mother were later dismissed. Mother was ordered to comply with a case plan addressing her domestic violence, mental health, parenting, employment, and housing. At a 2020 permanency planning hearing, the court entered a guardianship order and a guardianship visitation order, placing the juveniles with their maternal grandfather and eliminating reunification as a permanent plan. The court concluded mother acted inconsistently with her constitutional rights to parent and that reunification efforts would clearly be unsuccessful or inconsistent with the children’s health and safety. Visitation was ordered to be supervised, 4 hours/month with the days and times to be agreed upon between mother and the guardian. Mother appeals.
  • Acting inconsistently with constitutional rights to parent: Despite mother’s arguments, there is no requirement that the court find mother’s conduct was willful and intentional as required in a TPR when the ground includes a willfulness prong (distinguishing In re A.L.L, 376 N.C. 99 (2020) addressing TPR on abandonment). Distinguishing Rodriguez v. Rodriguez, 211 N.C. App. 267 (2011), where the juvenile was adjudicated dependent, here the juveniles were adjudicated neglected.  “Neglect ‘clearly constitute[s] conduct inconsistent with the protected status parents may enjoy.’ ” Sl. Op. ¶19. The court also found mother did not comply with her case plan by not finding appropriate housing or engaging in any mental health assessments or therapy or domestic violence services. The court’s findings support the conclusion.
  • Verification for Guardianship: Although the court must verify the guardian understands the legal significance of the guardianship, there is no specific findings the court must make under G.S. 7B-600 or -906.1(j). The guardian and DSS social worker testified to the guardian’s understanding. The DSS and GAL reports addresses the grandfather’s care of the juvenile’s for approximately 1 year. Competent evidence supports the court’s conclusion that the grandfather understood the legal significance of the guardianship.
  • When determining whether reunification efforts would be unsuccessful or inconsistent with the child’s health or safety, the court must make written findings under G.S. 7B-906.2(d). All 4 required findings were made and were supported by evidence (DSS court summary, letter from a service provider, GAL reports, DSS social worker testimony). Although mother had another child in her custody, the court has discretion to weigh the evidence, when determining whether efforts would be unsuccessful or inconsistent with the children’s health or safety.
Category:
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Stage:
Disposition (All Stages Post-Adjudication)
Topic:
Guardianship
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