In re S.R.F., 376 N.C. 647 (2021)

  • Facts: The juvenile was adjudicated neglected and dependent based on circumstances involving domestic violence and substance use. Eventually DSS filed for a TPR, which was ordered. Mother appeals the TPR order challenging the findings as unsupported by the evidence and the adjudication of the grounds as unsupported by the findings. This opinion focuses on the ground of neglect.
  • Standard of review of an adjudication is whether the findings of fact are supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence and whether the findings support the conclusions of law. Conclusions of law are reviewed de novo.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(1): 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.
  • Uncontested findings are binding on appeal. Some of the findings that mother challenges are unsupported by the evidence, but the errors are harmless given the related findings and supporting evidence (e.g. the dispositional order did not have an express directive for mother to address domestic violence as the finding states but other findings state respondent mother signed a case plan that required her to engage in domestic violence treatment which she did not do). When disregarding improper findings, full credit is given to proper findings.
  • The findings support the conclusion of past neglect and a likelihood of repetition of neglect. Failure to make progress on a case plan is indicative of a likelihood of future neglect. Mother did not meaningfully engage in her case plan that included domestic violence and substance abuse services, parenting classes, obtaining stable housing and employment, visiting with the juvenile, and failure to provide financial support. Attendance at a substance abuse program with a brief period of sobriety is insufficient to negate the court’s determination of a likelihood of future neglect.
Termination of Parental Rights
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