In re R.R.N., 368 N.C. 167 (2015)

The trial court must apply a totality of the circumstances test to determine if an adult relative is “entrusted with the juvenile’s care” such that the adult is a caretaker as defined by G.S. 7B-101(3). Factors include the duration, frequency, and location of the care provided by the adult relative as well as the decision-making authority that is given to the adult relative.  The adult relative must have a significant degree of parental-type responsibility for the child. A temporary arrangement for supervision is not the equivalent of entrusting an adult relative with the care of a juvenile such that the adult relative is a caretaker.
  • The Juvenile Code requires a balance between protecting children and parents’ fundamental rights to parent their children. When applying the purpose of the Juvenile Code, “ultimately, the best interest of the child is the lodestar, but if parents act appropriately to protect their child, their constitutional right to rear that child is paramount,” and DSS may not intervene in the private realm of the family.
  • The adult relative who acted as the child’s supervisor for one night on one occasion (a sleepover) while the child’s mother retained the ultimate responsibility for the child’s overall health and welfare is not a caretaker.
  • Procedural History: The trial court adjudicated the children neglected and the court of appeals reversed. This Supreme Court decision affirms the court of appeals. 
  • Category:
    Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
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