In re L.H., 378 N.C. 625 (2021)

  • Facts: DSS has an extensive history with the family, including two prior actions where the juveniles reunified with their mother. The juveniles were adjudicated neglected and abused after a 3rd petition was filed. Findings included a history of mother exposing her children to men who sexually abused them; mother making progress after her children were removed; the children returning to mother’s care; and the cycle of abuse repeating. DSS filed a TPR motion, which was granted.  Mother appeals.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(1) authorizes a TPR on the ground of neglect which involves a parent not providing proper care, supervision, or discipline or a juvenile who lives in an injurious environment. When there is a long period of separation, neglect requires prior neglect and a likelihood of repetition of neglect, based on the circumstances at the time of the TPR hearing.
  • The findings establish there was a likelihood of future neglect based on services mother receives when DSS is involved, but mother’s continued failure to protect her children or take responsibility for her role in her children’s abuse and neglect. Mother has cognitive limitations and a dependent personality, which hinders her judgment about her relationships and the impact of those relationships on her children. The appellate court will not reweigh evidence and place greater weight on testimony as that is the duty of the trial court. The findings of the impact of mother’s limitations are supported by the testimony of the doctor who evaluated mother 3 times to assess her parenting capacity and ability to protect her children. The court’s findings were not based on speculation.
Termination of Parental Rights
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