In re T.B., 380 N.C. 807 (2022)

  • Facts: The juvenile was adjudicated neglected and dependent based on circumstances involving her parents’ domestic violence and substance use. The parents did not make progress on their case plans, which resulted in DSS filing a TPR motion. The TPR was granted, and mother appeals (father files a no-merit appeal which is not summarized).
  • Neglect involves a juvenile whose parent does not provide proper care and supervision or who creates an injurious living environment. When there is a long period of separation between a child and parent, there must be a showing a past neglect and a likelihood of future neglect. An indication of a likelihood of future neglect is a parent’s failure to make progress on a case plan. The court looks at the best interests of the child and the parent’s fitness to care for the child at the time of the TPR hearing.
  • Findings support the conclusion of neglect – mother continued in relationship with father where there was ongoing domestic violence and lacked insight to end the relationship even after attending a program addressing domestic violence; mother did not request visits she was ordered to have or send cards or gifts to her daughter or contact the foster parents to check on her daughter; mother resided in an overcrowded apartment she acknowledged was not suitable for her daughter but had no plans to relocate. An indication of a likelihood of future neglect is “a parent’s ‘pattern of inconsistent contact and lack of interest’ in a child[.]” 380 N.C. at 818.
  • The findings are supported by clear and convincing evidence. Although mother denied her ongoing relationship with father, the social worker’s and father’s testimony supported the finding that the relationship continued. The trial court determines the credibility and weight of the evidence and inferences to draw therefrom. Mother’s denial of domestic violence incidence is relevant to a finding of likelihood of future neglect.
  • The presence of favorable findings re: mother’s progress with substance use services does not undermine the neglect adjudication based on other findings regarding a likelihood of future neglect due to domestic violence.
Termination of Parental Rights
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