In re M.A.W., 370 N.C. 149 (2017)


     court of appeals decision in In re M.A.W., ___ N.C. App. ___, 787 S.E.2d 461 (2016); trial court TPR reinstated.


  • The findings were sufficient to support a TPR on the ground of neglect. Neglect is based on the definition at G.S. 7B-101(15), and “if the child has been separated from the parent for a long period of time, there must be a showing of past neglect and a likelihood of future neglect by a parent.” (citations omitted). When there is past neglect, the court must also consider evidence of changed circumstances.
  • In the underlying neglect case, the child was adjudicated neglected based on the mother’s actions, which were a result of her substance abuse and mental health issues. The adjudication occurred while the respondent father was incarcerated. Incarceration, standing alone, is not sword or a shield in a TPR decision. The court considers evidence of relevant circumstances which exists before or after the prior adjudication of neglect. The prior adjudication of neglect is relevant evidence at the TPR hearing. The court found past neglect based on the respondent’s long history of criminal activity, substance abuse, and awareness of mother’s substance abuse such that he knew DSS would try to take the child. The court further found respondent father initially indicated a desire to be involved in the child’s life and during his incarceration accessed services available to him, including parenting courses, substance abuse treatment, and a GED program. But, the court found a likelihood of repetition of neglect based on father’s actions after he was released from incarceration, where he failed to regularly visit with the child as ordered, denied DSS requests to access his mother’s home where he purported to live, and failed to complete an ordered clinical assessment.



Termination of Parental Rights
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