In re J.R.F., 380 N.C. 43 (2022)

  • Facts: In 2018, the juvenile was adjudicated neglected based on circumstances involving parent’s substance use, domestic violence, mental health issues, parenting deficits, and housing instability. In 2020, DSS filed a TPR petition, which was granted. Father appeals, challenging the grounds and best interests determination.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(1) authorizes a termination of parental rights on the grounds of neglect, which involves a parent not providing proper care, supervision, or discipline to their child or creating a injurious living environment for the child’s welfare. When there is a long period of separation between the child and parent, the court must look to past neglect (which may be an adjudication of neglect) and the likelihood of future neglect, which is based on evidence of changed conditions regarding the parent’s fitness to care for the child and the child’s best interests at the time of the TPR hearing.
  • The findings support the likelihood of future neglect. Any progress father made did not begin until 1–2 months before the TPR hearing when his child was in DSS custody for almost 2 years. His progress had not been maintained for a  sufficient period of time to show the conditions that led to the child’s adjudication were ameliorated.
    • Although father had stable employment, which was a case plan goal, he did not obtain stable housing that was suitable for his child, which was another component of his case plan. He lived in 4 residences in the last 12 months and the current residence was in need of repairs.
    • Father did have some progress addressing his substance use as of the month before the TPR hearing, but father ignores the numerous findings addressing his substance use history throughout the case – multiple positive drug screens for buprenorphine, methamphetamines, amphetamines, and cocaine; his refusal to take other drug screens knowing they would be positive; failing to complete therapy; underreporting his substance use history at intake; and declining intensive outpatient therapy.
    • Domestic violence continued to be an issue throughout the case. Father did not complete a domestic violence offender program, having been discharged the first time for missing sessions. Although he started attending for a second time and was insightful and sincere, his progress didn’t being until 2 months before the TPR hearing, which was an insufficient period of time to compel the court to find he had made adequate progress such that there was not a likelihood of future neglect based on domestic violence.
Termination of Parental Rights
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