In re M.K., 381 N.C. 418 (2022)

  • Facts: In 2019 the juvenile was adjudicated neglected due to circumstances involving mother’s mental health, substance use, domestic violence/anger management, unstable housing and employment. Mother was ordered to comply with her case plan. After several permanency planning hearings where the court found mother was not making progress on her case plan, DSS filed a TPR petition. The TPR was granted and mother appeals.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(1) authorizes a TPR when a parent neglects their child, including failing to provide proper care, supervision, or discipline or creating an injurious living environment. When a parent and child have been separated for a long period of time there must be prior neglect and the likelihood of future neglect based on the changed conditions at the time of the TPR hearing. Regarding the likelihood of future neglect, a parent’s failure to make progress on their case plan is indicative of a likelihood of future neglect, while compliance with a case plan does not preclude a finding of neglect.
  • Mother challenges several findings – some of which are unsupported and are disregarded for appellate reviews, others of which are supported by the record, including permanency planning orders the trial court took judicial notice of.
  • The evidence and findings support the determination of a likelihood of future neglect. Mother was not participating in medication management or therapy as ordered and failed to maintain stable housing and submit to random drug screens as ordered. Although mother was not ordered to address domestic violence, the court did not err in considering mother’s continued violence. “Termination of parental rights proceedings are not meant to be punitive against the parent, but to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child.” 381 N.C. at 439. The court considers all the evidence of relevant circumstances that occurred before or after the prior neglect adjudication. Mother’s continued domestic violence was appropriately considered when determining if the juvenile was likely to suffer a repetition of neglect.  Further, part of the neglect adjudication was due to mother’s domestic violence. During the visits mother attended, she did not demonstrate appropriate parenting.
Termination of Parental Rights
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