In re R.L.D., 375 N.C. 838 (2020)

  • Facts: The juvenile was not in respondent mother’s care since 2012 but was instead in the care of relatives. There was no department of social services involvement. The relatives with whom the child had been living continuously for more than 2 years immediately preceding the filing of the petition initiated the TPR action on several grounds including neglect. The TPR was granted, and respondent mother appeals.
  • Neglect requires a showing of neglect as defined by G.S. 7B-101(15) at the time of the TPR hearing (current neglect) or 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.
    • A showing of past neglect is not necessary in every case. G.S. 7B-1111(a)(1) does not require a showing of past neglect if the petition can show current neglect. Any interpretation of In re D.L.W., 368 N.C. 835 (2016) to create such a requirement is disavowed. In re R.L.D., 375 N.C. 838, fn 3 (2020).
  • The trial court’s order includes unchallenged findings of mother’s drug use and concerns regarding the child when in mother’s care based on the child’s injuries, a lack of food, and domestic violence; a lack of contact between the mother and child for several years; mother’s agreement that petitioners would be guardians for the child indefinitely; the absence of any financial support from mother; intermittent text and phone contact between mother and child, some of which has been inappropriate by mother; mother’s current housing situation; the child’s mental health and trauma issues; and mother’s failure to create a support system for the child if in her care show that the juvenile was placed in an injurious environment her welfare and that the risks continue.
  • These findings support the conclusion of a substantial risk of harm to the juvenile and the likelihood of future neglect if the juvenile was removed from the petitioners and placed with mother.
Termination of Parental Rights
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