An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Proced ure.

NO. COA02-621


Filed: 18 March 2003


DANIEL SEATON CARTER                    New Hanover County
                                    Nos. 99 J 153-154


    Appeal by respondent from an order entered 21 December 2001 by Judge John W. Smith in New Hanover County District Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 3 March 2003.

    Staff Attorney Julia Talbutt for petitioner-appellee New Hanover County Department of Social Services.

    Davis & Davis, by Regina Floyd-Davis for appellee Guardian ad Litem.

    Susan J. Hall for respondent-appellant.

    HUNTER, Judge.

    Rayford David Carter (“respondent”) appeals from the termination of his parental rights as to the minor children David Storm Carter and Daniel Seaton Carter. We affirm.
    Respondent is the father of the twin boys who were born on 13 March 1996. Pursuant to a nonsecure custody order of 5 February 1997, the children were removed from their mother's home and have continuously been in the custody of the New Hanover County Department of Social Services (“petitioner”) since that time, living in various foster care placements.    In February of 1997, respondent was arrested on three counts of misdemeanor child abuse involving two of the children's stepbrothers. Respondent pled guilty to the misdemeanor charges and was subsequently incarcerated in South Carolina.
    On 3 April 1997, the trial court adjudicated the minor children to be neglected. The mother's parental rights were terminated on 3 June 1999. Petitioner filed a petition to terminate respondent's parental rights on 23 May 2000. Respondent was released from incarceration on 21 January 2001, but was required to remain in South Carolina until 25 July 2001.
    During the termination hearing on 17 September 2001, respondent testified to having completed several courses while imprisoned, but was unable to provide any documentation to support that assertion. He admitted failing to seek any services for anger management or parenting classes following his release from incarceration. Respondent also conceded he made no attempt to seek such services after his return to North Carolina:
        I just didn't think it was necessary at that time because I didn't know what to do. I'm going to be honest with you, every time I've talked to DSS I would ask them what would need to be successfully done and they told me wouldn't be no use in it because there was an order against me that I wasn't going to see my children anyway and that I'd be wasting my time.

Respondent claimed “there was not a mark on my younguns” when petitioner took his children on 5 February 1997, but “when they went into y'all's care, all of a sudden they started becoming marked.” He denied beating one of his stepchildren on 4 February1997 and accidentally striking one of his sons while doing so. Despite asserting the mother did not provide appropriate care and supervision for the children, respondent claims he took the blame for the charges against them out of love for the children and their mother, naively believing that this was in the best interests of the family.
    In its order terminating respondent's parental rights, the trial court made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
        5.    That the removal of the children from the home of their mother and the Respondent was precipitated by the discovery of multiple injuries and bruises on the child Timothy who was alleged to have been abused by the Respondent. At the time of removal from the home and of placement of the children, there was in place a protection plan between the mother of the children and the Department of Social Services. The protection plan . . . required that Respondent Rayford David Carter was not to be utilized as a caretaker of the children because of previous incidents in which the Respondent had employed excessive corporal punishment with Timothy and other children of the mother. The Department of Social Services provided day care to the children so that the Respondent would not be utilized as a caretaker.

        6.    That the majority of the bruises on Timothy which were discovered by school personnel on 5 February 1997, were inflicted by Respondent on 4 February 1997 as a “punishment” for Timothy's receiving bad marks in school. That the mother of the children observed 40 to 50 injurious marks and a swollen jaw on her son Timothy when he was examined by a physician. A belt or strap mark was observed on Daniel as well. Respondenttold the mother of the children that the infant Daniel had crawled between Timothy's legs while the Respondent was beating Timothy with a belt and Daniel was struck by the belt. That on an occasion prior to 4 February 1997, Respondent had caused Timothy to stand on an inverted potato chip can with arms outstretched holding rocks. That if Timothy lowered a hand, Respondent increased the time the child had to stand. The mother intervened and told the child to get down.

        7.    That as a result of the abuse suffered by Timothy, Respondent and the mother of the children were arrested and charged with misdemeanor child abuse. Charges against the mother of the children were dropped upon the Respondent's pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of child abuse. That conviction of misdemeanor child abuse resulted in the revocation of Respondent's parole from a South Carolina criminal judgement. Respondent was returned to the South Carolina Department of Corrections and was continuously incarcerated until on or about 29 January 2001. That upon his release from custody in South Carolina on or about 29 January 2001, Respondent remained on parole until on or about 21 July 2001. During this period of parole, Respondent was at liberty in South Carolina but contends he was unable to leave the State of South Carolina.

        8.    That at the time Respondent was arrested in February 1997, Respondent was aware that a conviction of misdemeanor child abuse would result in the revocation of his parole from South Carolina and his incarceration by the State of South Carolina for the duration of his sentence. That notwithstanding that at this time Respondent denies that he at any time mistreated the child Timothy or any other child of the mother Mercy Lynn Gatlin, Respondent pleaded guilty to the offense of misdemeanor child abuse of the child Timothy. The court specifically finds that his denial or minimization ofhis culpability is clear, strong and convincing evidence that during the time since the removal of the children, which was necessitated by his intentional abuse, he has made no progress to resolve those issues which caused the removal, and that there is no reasonable likelihood that the safety of the children can be reasonably assured.

        . . . .

        10.    That shortly after Respondent's incarceration in South Carolina, Respondent indicated that he wished to maintain contact with his sons. Respondent sent birthday cards and letters to his sons which were kept by the social worker to be given to the boys at a later date. Respondent's father met with social workers on his son's behalf and participated in agency review meetings. The initial plan for the children was reunification with their mother. However the mother left New Hanover County with a fiance and no longer worked on the plan of reunification. By May 1998, the agency plan for the boys had changed from reunification to adoption. In February 1999, Respondent notified the Department of Social Services that he opposed the plan of adoption. Respondent has consistently opposed the plan of adoption since at least as early as February 1999. At one point Respondent's father indicated that after meeting the foster parents, he would urge his son, the Respondent, to allow the children's adoption. Despite his verbal statements that he desired reunification, his attitude and position concerning the “punishment” and “discipline” he inflicted, even in the face of the prior findings and orders of the court, reflects a consistent and unimproved attitude which poses a danger to the welfare of the children were they to be returned to his custody. The court has specifically examined the question as to whether any construction of the original facts and circumstances precipitatingremoval could be construed to be a mere error of judgment on the Respondent's part, and specifically finds that no reasonable person could consider the actions which caused removal to be reasonable or appropriate. The court has considered whether his incarceration, precipitated by his conviction for these acts of child abuse, posed such a disability that further efforts should have been made by the Department or additional time allowed; and the court specifically finds that not to be the case. The sole responsibility for a failure to make substantial progress rests solely with the Respondent, and no other person or agency.

        11.    That David Storm Carter and Daniel Seaton Carter have been placed together in the same pre-adoptive home since late 1998. That both boys are well adjusted in this home and recognize this home as permanent and the foster parents as mother and father. The bonding of the twins is such that it is not in their interest to be separated at this time. The lapse of time, the age of the children, the duration of a stable placement, and their needs for a permanent placement all militate against further delay to experiment with an unrealistic plan for reunification.

        THIS COURT THEREFORE CONCLUDES That based on the foregoing the Court determines as a matter of law that the grounds for termination of the Respondent's parental rights have been established by clear, cogent and convincing evidence. Those grounds are that the Respondent has willfully left the children in foster care for in excess of twelve-months without showing to the satisfaction of the Court that reasonable progress under the circumstances has been made within the twelve months in correcting the conditions which led to the removal of the children and that the Respondent has neglected the children by endangering these two children while administering unreasonable and excessive punishment to the older child Timothy to such a degree as to constitute abuse.
            . . . .

        THE COURT FURTHER FINDS AND CONCLUDES AS FOLLOWS: After the determination that the grounds for termination have been established by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence, the court proceeds to assess the best interests of the children; and the court finds by clear, cogent and convincing evidence that the best interests of the children will be best served by the termination of parental rights of the Respondent to allow the children a safe and permanent home by adoption. This determination is based upon the foregoing findings, the recommendation of the independent Guardian Ad Litem appointed by the court, and especially the need to establish a permanent placement plan for these children who have remained in foster care since February, 1997, while the Respondent has made no substantial progress in remedying those issues which necessitated removal to protect the children from the Respondent.

The trial court then terminated respondent's parental rights. From the trial court's order, respondent appeals.
    Respondent first argues the evidence was insufficient to support the trial court's conclusion that he willfully left the children in foster care in excess of twelve months, without making reasonable progress within those twelve months to correct the conditions which led to the children's removal. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(2) (2001).
    “The standard for review in termination of parental rights cases is whether the findings of fact are supported by clear, cogent and convincing evidence and whether these findings, in turn, support the conclusions of law.” In re Clark, 72 N.C. App. 118, 124, 323 S.E.2d 754, 758 (1984). While several grounds for termination of parental rights are provided by N.C. Gen. Stat. §7B-1111, they are set forth in the alternative such that a finding of one or more of the grounds is sufficient to support an order of termination. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1110 (2001); In re Williamson, 91 N.C. App. 668, 678, 373 S.E.2d 317, 322-23 (1988). If a trial court concludes that any one of the alternative statutory grounds for termination exists, and its conclusion is supported by the findings of fact, this Court need not address whether termination was proper under the remaining statutory grounds. See Williamson, 91 N.C. App. at 679, 373 S.E.2d at 323.
    Respondent has failed to assign error to any of the trial court's findings of fact, and those findings are therefore presumed to be correct and supported by the evidence. In re Moore, 306 N.C. 394, 404, 293 S.E.2d 127, 133 (1982). In our discretion, we have examined the record on appeal and found competent evidence in the form of the orders filed in the case as well as the testimonies of respondent and three employees of petitioner, all of which support the trial court's findings of fact. We further hold that those findings in turn support the trial court's conclusion to terminate respondent's parental rights. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(2). Having determined that the trial court's order is supported by one of the grounds set forth in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a), we need not reach respondent's contention as to the trial court's finding of neglect as a second ground for termination.
    Respondent failed to set out his remaining assignment of error in his brief. Because he has neither cited any authority nor stated any reason or argument in support of that assignment oferror, it is deemed abandoned. N.C.R. App. P. 28(b)(6). The trial court's order terminating respondent's parental rights as to the minor children is affirmed.
    Judges BRYANT and ELMORE concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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