In re M.A., ___ N.C. ___ (July 17, 2020)

Held: 
Affirmed
  • Facts: The children were adjudicated neglected based on lack of proper care and supervision and an injurious environment due to domestic violence and substance use in the home. After adoption was ordered as the primary permanent plan, DSS filed a TPR petition. The TPR was granted and mother appealed, arguing the court abused its discretion when determining the TPR was in the children’s best interests. Father also appealed the neglect ground (discussed in section above).
  • Findings of fact were made for each of the relevant statutory factors enumerated in G.S. 7B-1110(a).
    • The court’s findings that there was a likelihood of adoption was supported by testimony from the adoption recruiter even though there were no prospective adoptive families that had been identified at the time of the TPR hearing. The lack of an adoptive placement or the possibility that the adoption process would be lengthy do not a preclude a TPR. The testimony included the adoption recruiter’s belief that the children were likely to be adopted given that they had an ability to form bonds with their caregivers, had no special needs, and were doing well in school and therapy. Additionally, the TPR would make the children eligible to list with adoption service agencies to help identify an adoptive family. The GAL also testified that he was not concerned about the children’s ability to bond with an adoptive family and recommended that TPR was in the children’s best interests given the duration of their time in foster care and need for a safe, permanent home.
    • While a court may consider a child’s wishes, their preference is not controlling because the best interests of the child is the “polar star” of the Juvenile Code. Although G.S. 48-3-601(1) requires a child who is 12 or older to consent to their adoption, that requirement may be waived when the court finds it is not in the child’s best interests. G.S. 48-3-603(b)(2). As such any refusal by a child to consent does not necessarily preclude adoption.
Category:
Termination of Parental Rights
Stage:
Disposition
Topic:
Best Interests Findings
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