In re V.S., 380 N.C. 819 (2022)

  • Facts: The children had been adjudicated neglected due to circumstances created by mother, including exposure to pornography, domestic violence, unstable housing, unsafe housing, and poor hygiene. Mother has cognitive delays and was determined to be incompetent and appointed a Rule 17 GAL. Ultimately, DSS filed a TPR motion, which was granted. Mother appeals arguing the court did not address whether mother could be assisted by family members when determining the likelihood of future neglect.
  • Although the findings that are challenged address the suitability of family members as caregivers, the unchallenged findings, which are binding on appeal, give the court overwhelming support for its determination of a likelihood of future neglect. The findings include mother’s inability to function independently or parent the children or to understand basic information, the children’s diagnoses and needs, and the reasons why the children came into care. “Certainly, there may be situations where a parent’s reliance in part on others to assist her in caring for her children supports a determination that there is not a likelihood of repetition of neglect if the children are returned to her care.” 380 N.C. at 827. But the trial court assesses the best interests of the child and fitness of the parent, not others, to care for the child at the time of the TPR hearing since the parent has ultimately authority over their child. “Accordingly, a parent must be able to understand the past neglect her children suffered while in her care; comprehend how to keep them safe from harm through proper care, supervision, discipline, and provision of a living environment not injurious to their welfare; and demonstrate an ability to do so.” Id.
Termination of Parental Rights
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