In re S.G., 268 N.C. App. 360 (2019)

  • Facts: DSS responded to a report of a 3 year old with a black eye. The 3-year-old child has two older siblings. All three children have the same mother, and the older children have the same respondent father. Initially, the parents evaded the DSS social worker and ultimately explained the youngest child’s bruise as him falling when running and hitting his head on the table. DSS sought mother’s agreement to keep the children from respondent father while an assessment was being completed, but respondent mother would not agree. DSS filed a petition and obtained adjudications that the 3-year-old child was abused, neglected, and dependent and the two older siblings were neglected and dependent. At the disposition and permanency planning hearing, the court ordered respondents to complete and follow recommendations of substance abuse and mental health assessments, participate in parenting classes, obtain and maintain safe and stable housing, and submit to random drug screens. The order set forth a visitation plan of one visit per month and further designated that contact between the 3 year old and respondent father (who is not the father of the 3 year old)  was to be based on the child’s therapist’s recommendation.
  • Abuse Adjudication: An abused juvenile under G.S. 7B-101(1) includes a juvenile whose parent inflicts or allows to be inflicted serious physical injury, or substantial risk of such injury, upon the juvenile by non-accidental means.  The determination of whether there is a “serious physical injury” is dependent on the facts of each case; there is no minimum threshold. The findings that the 3 year old had significant patterned bruising on his forehead and upper eyelid that was visible for at least 4 days after the incident causing the bruise is sufficient to support the conclusion that the child suffered a serious injury. Although there was no medical testimony that the injuries occurred through non-accidental means, there was medical evidence via unobjected to testimony from two medical professionals, the bruising was consistent with a being hit by a belt buckle and was not consistent with the child hitting his head on a table. This medical evidence supports the court’s determination that the injuries were non-accidental.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
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