In re M.R., 381 N.C. 838 (2022)

  • Facts: In 2017, two juveniles were adjudicated neglected based on circumstances involving unstable housing and mother’s substance use. In 2018, mother gave birth to a baby who tested positive for substances and that baby was ultimately adjudicated neglected. DSS filed motions to TPR both parents’ rights, which were granted. Mother appeals, challenging the ground of neglect and the best interests determination. Father appeals the best interests determination.
  • 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 (such as an adjudication) and the likelihood of future neglect based on the changed conditions of the parent’s fitness and the child’s best interests at the time of the TPR hearing.
  • Unchallenged findings support the court’s conclusion of a likelihood of future neglect. Those findings address mother’s history with DSS, unstable housing, the children’s irregular school attendance and grade retention, mother’s arrests for new drug-related offenses and subsequent incarceration, mother’s illegal drug use including during pregnancy, and mother’s lack of prenatal care. Although mother did enroll in a substance use treatment program (TROSA) and was compliant with the program, she was not scheduled to complete that program until after the TPR hearing and would only be eligible for day visits with the children. The progress mother was making with her case plan (which started 21 months after the children were placed in DSS custody) does not preclude a finding of neglect. At the time of the TPR hearing, mother did not have the ability to provide proper care, supervision, and discipline.
Termination of Parental Rights
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