An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority.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. COA02-1369

NORTH CAROLINA COURT OF APPEALS

Filed: 20 May 2003

IN RE:                                 Edgecombe County
THOMAS HUNTER GILES,                     No. 00 J 125
A Minor Child
    DOB: 5/21/95

    

    Appeal by respondent Sherry Giles from order entered 5 April 2002 by Judge John L. Whitley in Edgecombe County District Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 5 May 2003.

    Lawrence, Rigsbee, & Best, P.A., by Natarlin R. Best, for Edgecombe County Department of Social Services petitioner appellee.

    Robert Dale Pitt for Guardian Ad Litem appellee.

    Etheridge, Sykes & Hamlett, LLP, by J. Richard Hamlett, II, for Sherry Giles respondent appellant.

    McCULLOUGH, Judge.

    Thomas Hunter Giles was born on 21 May 1995. The respondent, Sherry Giles, is the child's mother. Thomas was placed in the custody of the Edgecombe County Department of Social Services (DSS) on 3 August 1999 after he was sexually abused by his father. On 3 February 2000, nunc pro tunc 21 December 1999, Thomas was adjudicated an abused juvenile. On 4 May 2000, the trial court determined that the permanent plan for the child should be adoption by a non-relative caretaker.
    On 10 May 2000, a petition to terminate parental rights was filed by DSS alleging that respondent had neglected Thomas withinthe meaning of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(15) (2001). Specifically, the petition alleged that respondent had failed to take any action to protect Thomas from being sexually abused by his father following her discovery of a videotape of the sexual abuse. The petitioner further stated that Thomas would need caregivers who were trained in addressing his special mental health needs as a result of the past sexual abuse by his father. The petition alleged that respondent was incapable of providing for those special mental health needs, and that there was a reasonable probability that the incapability would continue for the foreseeable future. Accordingly, DSS alleged that it was in the child's best interests that respondent's parental rights be terminated.
    On 6 February 2002, a hearing was held on the petition to terminate respondent's parental rights. Prior to the hearing, respondent stipulated that she knew of the sexual abuse and failed to protect Thomas, and did not contest that he was an abused and neglected child. However, respondent argued that it was not in the best interests of the juvenile for her rights to be terminated.
    On 5 April 2002, the trial court determined that grounds existed to terminate respondent's parental rights. The trial court concluded that the actions of respondent had resulted in the sexual abuse, and that the child was therefore an abused juvenile. The trial court further concluded that respondent had willfully left the child in foster care for 12 months without showing to the satisfaction of the court that reasonable progress had been made incorrecting those conditions which led to the removal of the child. Accordingly, respondent's parental rights were terminated. Respondent appeals.
    Respondent argues there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court's finding of any ground authorizing the termination of her parental rights. Respondent contends that, although she stipulated to knowing of the sexual abuse and failing to protect Thomas, the trial court failed to consider any evidence of changed conditions. Respondent argues that termination may not be based solely on conditions of neglect which existed previously but no longer exist. In this case, respondent notes that she has had no contact with her son since he was removed from her custody.
    After careful review of the record, briefs and contentions of the parties, we affirm. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111 (2001) sets out the statutory grounds for terminating parental rights. A finding of any one of the separately enumerated grounds is sufficient to support a termination. In re Taylor, 97 N.C. App. 57, 64, 387 S.E.2d 230, 233-34 (1990). “[T]he party petitioning for the termination must show by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that grounds authorizing the termination of parental rights exist.” In re Young, 346 N.C. 244, 247, 485 S.E.2d 612, 614 (1997).
    In the case sub judice, the trial court concluded that Thomas was an abused juvenile within the meaning of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B- 101(1). The trial court further concluded that respondent had willfully left Thomas in foster care for more than twelve months without showing to the satisfaction of the court that reasonableprogress under the circumstances had been made in correcting those conditions which led to the removal of the child. The trial court based its findings and conclusions on evidence that respondent stipulated to knowing of the abuse, but failed to protect the minor child. Respondent alleges that there are changed conditions. However, the trial court found that respondent had terminated therapy sessions in May 2001, long before the hearing was held on the petition to terminate her parental rights. Additionally, the trial court cited testimony and adopted as a finding of fact that respondent “refused to accept responsibility for her son's maltreatment,” although respondent's “decision not to intervene on behalf of the child makes her accountable.” Thus, we conclude there was clear, cogent, and convincing evidence to support the trial court's findings and conclusions.
    Once the trial court has found that grounds exist to terminate parental rights, “the court shall issue an order terminating the parental rights of such parent with respect to the juvenile unless the court shall further determine that the best interests of the juvenile require that the parental rights of the parent not be terminated.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1110(a) (2001). The trial court's decision to terminate parental rights at the disposition stage is discretionary. See In re Montgomery, 311 N.C. 101, 110, 316 S.E.2d 246, 252 (1984).
    Here, the trial court concluded that it was in the best interests of the child that respondent's parental rights be terminated. The trial court based its conclusion on the severityof the abuse suffered by Thomas, and the recommendations of counselors that Thomas would need special care and treatment. Thus, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that termination was in the child's best interests. Accordingly, the order terminating respondent's parental rights is affirmed.
    Affirmed.
    Judges MARTIN and CALABRIA concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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