In re K.P.-S.T., 375 N.C. 797 (2020)

  • Facts: The juveniles were adjudicated neglected in an underlying case. Father was ordered to comply with a case plan that addressed issues related to substance use, domestic violence, housing, basic physical needs for his children, parenting, employment/income, visitation, and child support. Eventually, DSS filed a TPR petition, which was granted on several grounds. Respondent father appeals, arguing the findings of fact do not support the conclusions of law. This opinion focuses on the ground of neglect.
  • Neglect requires a showing of neglect as defined by G.S. 7B-101(15) at the time of the TPR hearing (current neglect) or if the child has been separated from the parent for a long period of time, a TPR for neglect must be based on a showing of past neglect and a likelihood of future neglect by considering the evidence of changed circumstances given the history of neglect by the parents between the time of the past neglect and the TPR hearing.
    • A showing of past neglect is not necessary in every case. G.S. 7B-1111(a)(1) does not require a showing of past neglect if the petition can show current neglect. Any interpretation of In re D.L.W., 368 N.C. 835 (2016) to create such a requirement is disavowed. In re R.L.D., 375 N.C. 838, fn 3 (2020); see also In re K.P.-S.T., 375 N.C. 797, fn 5(2020).
  • “A parent’s failure to make progress in completing a case plan is indicative of a likelihood of future neglect.” 7.
  • The court found that father delayed signing a case plan for more than one year and had not complied in an adequate and consistent manner. The findings described the deficiencies including his (1) failure to comply with recommendations of his substance abuse assessment, submit to random drug screens, take the necessary steps to regain his driver’s license which had been suspended, work with a therapist to learn about the effects of domestic violence on children, update his social worker on his living situation, cooperate so the social worker could conduct a home visit, and pay court ordered child support; (2) delay of 2 years in obtaining a parenting evaluation and failure to complete the parenting program; and (3) sporadic visitation with the children and sporadic contact with the DSS social worker. These findings support the conclusion of neglect.
  • Father’s seeking consideration of his compliance is a request to reweigh the evidence, which the appellate court lacks the authority to do.
Termination of Parental Rights
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