In re K.M.C., 288 N.C. App. 143 (2023)

  • Facts: The juveniles were adjudicated neglected based on mother’s substance use on three separate occasions, twice after being reunified with mother. Domestic violence between the parents also occurred. The case plan required mother to obtain comprehensive clinical assessments, complete recommendations, comply with drug screens, obtain and maintain a safe residence including informing the social worker of her physical address and phone number. Mother completed an assessment but provided inaccurate information. She did not complete any recommendations from that assessment, did not submit to drug screens and admitted to using substances, denied the social worker access to the home on numerous attempts, and has not maintained consistent contact with the social worker. The court granted the TPR and mother appeals.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(2) authorizes a TPR when the parent has willfully left the child in foster care for 12 months while failing to make reasonable progress under the circumstances to correct the conditions that led to the child’s removal. When looking at the parent’s progress, the court looks at the facts and circumstance up to the time of the TPR hearing. A child is willfully left in foster care when a parent has the ability to make reasonable progress but is unwilling to make the effort. A prolonged inability to make progress is willful even when a parent has good intentions and makes some efforts.
  • Mother made late efforts to obtain psychological and substance use evaluations, provided inaccurate information, failed to follow up with recommendations, refused the drug screens, and admitted to using substances. Mother willfully failed to make reasonable progress.
  • Mother argues collateral estoppel should have prevented the court from looking at the prior orders in her two earlier cases of neglect. The social worker testified to those cases and the orders were admitted in evidence without objection. Mother did not preserve this issue for appeal.
Termination of Parental Rights
Willfully Leaving Child in Foster Care or Other Placement
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