In re K.C.T., 375 N.C. 592 (2020)

Reversed and remanded in part
Reversed in Part
  • Facts: After a voluntary kinship placement, petitioners in this TPR obtained a Ch. 50 civil custody order giving them sole legal and physical custody of the juvenile and no visitation with mother. More than 3 years later, petitioners filed this TPR, alleging neglect, failure to make reasonable progress, dependency, and willful abandonment. The TPR was granted on all 4 grounds, and mother appeals.
  • The finding addressing the likelihood of repetition of neglect with respondent mother is unsupported by the evidence. Mother testified her disability would not make it impossible for her to care for the juvenile. The other witness testimony about mother’s disability and how it could impact mother’s parenting was mere supposition. Although mother has a disability, she resides with family who assist her. “[I]t is unclear how respondent-mother’s disabilities, standing alone, would place [the juvenile] at risk of neglect if she returned to respondent-mother’s care.” Sl.Op. at 10.
  • Neglect may also occur by abandonment. When deciding if the ground exists, the trial court looks to the parent’s conduct over an extended time period including up to and including the date of the TPR hearing. Although mother did not seek a modification of the Ch. 50 custody order, she did send gifts, contacted the juvenile and custodians over time showing her intent to be part of her child’s life.
  • TPR on neglect ground must be reversed.
  • Dissent: The findings support the conclusion of neglect. The court found mother currently was unable to function without assistance from others due to her diagnosed disabilities and does not have the ability to provide proper care and supervision to the child. The majority applied the wrong standard of review.
Termination of Parental Rights
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