In re P.T.W., ___ N.C. App. ___, 794 S.E.2d 843 (2016)

Held: 
Affirmed
  • A review of an order ceasing reasonable efforts for reunification is based on
    • whether the trial court made appropriate findings of fact,
    • whether those findings are based on competent evidence,
    • whether the findings support the court’s conclusion, and
    • whether the court abused its discretion with respect to the disposition.
  • Competent evidence is evidence that a reasonable mind accepts as adequate to support the finding. The department of social services report, which was submitted to the trial court and admitted into evidence without objection at the cease reunification hearing, is competent evidence. In addition, the department social worker’s testimony is competent evidence.
  • Based on the contents of the department’s report and the social worker’s testimony, the court’s findings of the mother being substantiated for sexual abuse of another one of her children who was not the subject of this action, her failure to comply with the case plan, her failure to demonstrate sustained parenting improvements, her lack of awareness about her history of domestic violence with the child’s father, and her failure to maintain stable housing were supported by competent evidence.
  • The court’s finding that the respondent mother did not reengage in therapy when she moved to another county were not supported by competent evidence as the only evidence introduced on that issue was the mother’s testimony of her efforts to continue with therapy and her attendance at one session. However, the remaining facts that were found by the court support the court’s ultimate decision to cease reasonable efforts for reunification.
  • The facts and conclusions must be based on evidence that is presented at the hearing that results in an order ceasing reasonable efforts (emphasis in original). The court’s finding that the mother failed to demonstrate parenting improvements were supported by the department’s report and social worker’s testimony, both of which were introduced at the hearing. Although on appeal, respondent mother pointed to prior court orders that indicated she was making progress with her parenting, those orders and examples of her improved parenting were not offered at the hearing that resulted in the order ceasing reasonable efforts for reunification.

 

  • Author’s Note: This case was decided under G.S. 7B-507, which was amended effective October 1, 2015. Additional Note: In its recitation of the procedural history of the dependency and subsequent termination of parental rights actions, this opinion appears to use the generic term “review hearing” for each type of hearing that occurred in the actions (the adjudicatory, initial dispositional, review, permanency planning and termination of parental rights hearings).

 

Category:
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Stage:
Cease Reunification
Topic:
Findings of Fact
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