In re O.W.D.A., 375 N.C. 645 (2020)

  • Facts: Child was adjudicated neglected and father was ordered to comply with a case plan that addressed his substance use, criminal activity, lack of stable housing and income, need for parenting classes, and cooperation with DSS. After adoption was designated as the primary permanent plan, DSS filed a petition to terminate father’s parental rights. Father’s rights were terminated on the ground of neglect, and respondent father appeals.
  • Standard of review of an adjudication is whether the findings of fact are supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence and whether the findings support the conclusions of law.
  • If the child has been separated from the parent for a long period of time, a TPR for neglect must be based on a showing of past neglect and a likelihood of future neglect by considering the evidence of changed circumstances given the history of neglect by the parents between the time of the past neglect and the TPR hearing.
  • Father is collaterally estopped from arguing the basis for the underlying neglect adjudication was his incarceration. For the underlying neglect adjudication to which father consented, he stipulated that he used drugs, was on probation, which was violated, has an extensive criminal history, was unemployed, and had no stable income or housing. Father did not appeal that order.
  • The court’s finding of past neglect and the likelihood of future neglect was based on his failure to comply with his case plan, which included a period of time where he was not incarcerated. The court also considered evidence of the father’s changed circumstances, which was his incarceration. Although father made minimal progress (he started taking parenting classes), the court is “within its authority to weigh the evidence and determine that these eleventh-hour efforts did not outweigh the evidence of his persistent failures to make improvements while not incarcerated, and to conclude that there was a probability of neglect….” SL.Op. at 13. These findings support the conclusion of neglect.
Termination of Parental Rights
Click on a term below for additional case summaries tagged with the same term.