In re M.S.E., 378 N.C. 40 (2021)

  • Facts: Two juveniles were adjudicated neglected based on circumstances created by mother’s untreated mental health and substance use issues and housing instability. Mother continued to use marijuana and cocaine and did not submit to the majority of required drug screens. She did not comply with recommendations for mental health and substance use treatment. Mother did attend some parenting classes and showed improvements in her interactions with the children. Mother had a psychological assessment that showed she had borderline intellectual functioning and recommended a support person for assistance with parenting, a rep payee, review of written documents with her to ensure she understood. Ultimately, DSS filed a TPR motion, which was granted on the grounds of neglect and failure to make reasonable progress. Mother appeals. 
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(1) authorizes a TPR on the ground of neglect, which includes a parent not providing proper care, supervision, or discipline or the juvenile living in an environment injurious to their welfare. When the parent and juvenile have been separated for a significant period of time, there must be a showing of past neglect, which may include a neglect adjudication, and a likelihood of future neglect based on evidence of changed conditions at the time of the TPR hearing.
    • “The ‘trial court need not make a finding as to every fact which arises from the evidence; rather, the court need only find those facts which are material to the resolution of the dispute.’ ” 378 N.C. at 54. The trial court made the required facts to resolve the dispute, and those facts were supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence. Further, unchallenged findings are binding on appeal.
    • Although findings showed mother obtained safe and appropriate housing, her progress on the rest of her case plan, which addressed engaging in substance use and mental health services, completing drug screens, taking medication as prescribed, and improving her parenting including understanding her son’s mental health needs, was inadequate. The findings support the conclusion of a likelihood of future neglect.
Termination of Parental Rights
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