In re K.H., 375 N.C. 610 (2020)

There is a dissent
Newby, J. There's also a concurrence in part and dissent in part, Ervin, J. and Davis, J.
  • Facts: A 16-year-old parent and her 9-month-old baby were placed in nonsecure custody with DSS. Initially, mother and infant were separated (April 5, 2017 through June 9, 2017) but then were placed in a foster home together from December 19, 2017 until August 8, 2018 when they were separated again. The infant was adjudicated neglected and dependent (the opinion does not address respondent minor mother’s status as an abused, neglected, or dependent juvenile but does make reference to her also being in DSS custody). After respondent minor mother made minimal progress, DSS filed a TPR motion on August 8, 2018. The TPR was granted on three grounds: failure to make reasonable progress (7B-1111(a)(2)), failure to pay the reasonable cost of care (7B-1111(a)(3)), and dependency (7B-1111(a)(6)). Respondent mother appeals all three grounds.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(3) authorizes a TPR when the juvenile has been placed in DSS custody or foster home and the parent has for a period of 6 months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR petition/motion willfully failed to pay a reasonable portion of the cost of the juvenile’s care although the parent is physically and financially able to do so.
  • The relevant 6-month period is February 8, 2018 to August 8, 2018. The findings included mother worked at Show Shoe and Cook Out in 2018, was employed part-time at various points in time, is physically and financially able to pay more than zero, and had not paid anything toward the cost of the juvenile’s care. Because the findings did not address the specific determinative 6-month period, the findings are insufficient to support the ground.
  • Dissent in part: The proper remedy is remand and not reverse. A reversal is proper when “the record evidence is ‘too scant’ to support the trial court’s decision, . . . , while a remand is appropriate in the event that, even if the trial court’s required findings of fact are defective, the record contains sufficient evidence to permit the trial court to have reached the result that it deemed appropriate in the event that proper findings had been made.” Concur in part, dissent in part at 2 (citations omitted). In reviewing the record, a complete reversal is unwarranted as the trial court may be able to make the necessary findings for a termination based on G.S. 7B-1111(a)(3).
  • Dissent: Agrees with dissent in part and goes further. The findings regarding mother’s employment in 2018 and failure to pay anything toward the cost of the juvenile’s care is a broad reference to the year and includes the determinative 6-month period.
Termination of Parental Rights
Failure to Pay Reasonable Cost of Care
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