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

Vacated and Remanded in Part
  • 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.
  • Visitation: G.S. 7B-905.1 sets forth the visitation requirements, and an order of visitation is reviewed for an abuse of discretion.
    • The portion of the order that limited contact between the three year old and respondent father, who is not that child’s father (note, this author believes he is a caretaker) as recommended by the child’s therapist is an order of no visitation. Visitation was not required as G.S. 7B-905.1 “only requires the setting of a visitation plan between a child and his or her ‘parent, guardian, or custodian.’ ” Sl.Op. at 22. Because visitation was not required, an order of no visitation was not error.
      • Author’s Note: The language of G.S. 7B-905.1(a) states “an order that removes custody of a juvenile from a parent, guardian, or custodian or that the continues the juvenle’s placement outside of the home shall provide for appropriate visitation as may be in the best interests of the juvenile consistent with the juvenile’s health and safety.”
    • An order of one visit per month between respondent mother and her children (all three children) and respondent father and his children (the older two) is not an abuse of discretion as there were findings that respondents have frequently missed visits, many of which were not cancelled beforehand.
    • The order did not specify the duration of the visits as required by G.S. 7B-905.1 and therefore this portion is remanded for a minimum duration time.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
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