An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority.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. COA03-1129


Filed: 1 June 2004

IN THE MATTER OF                         Catawba County
A.F.,                                 No. 02 J 172
A MINOR CHILD                            

    Appeal by respondent from an order entered 11 March 2003 by Judge C. Thomas Edwards in District Court, Catawba County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 10 May 2004.

    J. David Abernethy, for Catawba County Department of Social Services, petitioner-appellee.

    Haakon Thorsen, for J.F., respondent-appellant.

    McGEE, Judge.

    The Catawba County Department of Social Services (DSS) filed a petition on 11 June 2002 alleging that A.F. (the child) was a neglected and dependent juvenile. DSS filed an amended petition on 19 November 2002 changing the names of the child's putative fathers. Another petition was filed on 26 November 2002 alleging a different date of neglect. A non-secure custody order was entered that same day and the child was placed in the custody of DSS. The child's mother, J.F. (respondent), consented to the non- secure order until 17 December 2002 and then subsequently consented until 11 February 2003 in orders entered 3 December 2002 and 13 January 2003.
The trial court conducted an adjudication/dispositional hearing on 11 February 2003 and found that the child was neglectedbut dismissed the allegation of dependency in an order entered 4 March 2003. The order directed that the child be placed in the custody of DSS and directed that DSS make reasonable efforts to return the child to respondent's home. The order also directed respondent to comply with all aspects of the case plan and to submit to testing, treatment, and parenting classes. A regularly scheduled permanency planning hearing was held 11 March 2003 and the trial court concluded that reunification of the child with respondent was not in the child's best interest. The trial court ordered that the child remain in the custody of DSS, that DSS cease efforts to return the child to respondent's home, and that the permanent plan for the child be adoption. An amended permanency planning order was entered 8 April 2003 to correct respondent's name in one finding of fact. Respondent appeals.
    The record shows that the child was born to respondent on 15 March 2000. The child was removed from respondent's home pursuant to a voluntary placement agreement on 28 February 2002 following a raid by the Newton Police Department during which drug paraphernalia and illegal controlled substances were found in the residence. The child was placed in the care of a couple from February 2002 through November 2002. The child was then placed in emergency foster care for one week and subsequently placed in the care of another family on 9 December 2002 and remained with the latter family until the permanency planning hearing on 11 March 2003.
    Following the 11 March 2003 hearing, the trial court made thefollowing pertinent findings of fact:    
        3.    [A.F.], the minor child, was born March 15, 2000. He has been placed outside the mother's home since February 28, 2002. He has been in his current Foster/Adopt home since December 9, 2002. He has adjusted to that family very well. When the social worker arrived to transport him for a visit with his mother, he ran under the kitchen table to hide.

        4.    [J.F.], the mother, has received child protective services since the month of [A.F's] birth. She did not even name Mr. Smith as a possible putative father during initial hearings in this proceeding, instead naming other putative fathers. She has a self-reported extensive history of substance abuse. In April of 2001 she tested positive for marijuana, cocaine, and Darvon. She participated in and completed twenty alcohol and drug treatment sessions. The circumstances of the February 2002 drug raid on her residence, when [A.F] was present, are contained in the Adjudication findings. This raid resulted in [A.F.'s] placement. She was evicted from her residence the next month. She lived with friends and sometimes in her car until August of 2002. She moved into a two-bedroom mobile home in Taylorsville in August of 2002. She had a positive drug screen for Butalbitol, a prescription pain medication for which she had no prescription, on September 5, 2002. She is participating in the Nurturing Program, a parenting class, but has missed two entire classes and has been late for several others. Whether she will graduate is unknown. A drug screen taken on the mother on March 3, 2003, resulted in a positive result for cocaine metabolites and propoxyphene. Results have not come in from another screen taken on March 8, 2003.

In addition, the trial court made the following conclusions of law:
        2.    That the Catawba County Department ofSocial Services has exercised reasonable efforts toward reunification of the minor child with his mother, but reunification is not in the best interest of the minor child at this time.

        . . . 

        4.    That return to the home of either parent is not in the best interest of the minor child at this time, and is contrary to the health, safety and welfare of the minor child at this time.

As a result, the trial court ordered DSS to cease efforts to return the child to respondent's home and changed the permanency plan for the child to adoption.
    Respondent argues that the trial court's findings of fact are not supported by sufficient competent evidence. Respondent asserts that she was trying to get the child back and attempting to establish a stable home for the child. Specifically, respondent notes that at the 11 February 2003 hearing there was evidence that respondent needed drug treatment, that inpatient treatment might be necessary, and that DSS could arrange for her inpatient treatment. Respondent maintains that evidence of one positive urine test before beginning her new outpatient treatment does not support the finding that further reunification efforts clearly would be futile.
    The purpose of the permanency planning hearing is "to develop a plan to achieve a safe, permanent home for the juvenile within a reasonable period of time." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-907(a) (2003). "In achieving this goal, the court may direct DSS to cease reunification efforts with a parent." In re Everett, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___, 588 S.E.2d 579, 582 (2003) (citing N.C. Gen. Stat. §7B-507 [2003]). The trial court has the authority to order the cessation of reunification efforts between a parent and a child if the court makes written findings of fact that "'[s]uch efforts clearly would be futile or would be inconsistent with the juvenile's health, safety, and need for a safe, permanent home within a reasonable period of time[.]'" Id. (quoting N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-507(b)(1) [2003]).
    In developing a plan "to achieve a safe, permanent home for the juvenile[,]" the trial court "shall consider information from the parent, the juvenile, the guardian, any foster parent, relative or preadoptive parent providing care for the child, the custodian or agency with custody, the guardian ad litem, and any other person or agency which will aid it in the court's review." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-907(a) and (b) (2003). Additionally, "the trial court must consider any evidence of changed conditions in light of the evidence of prior neglect." In re Eckard, 148 N.C. App. 541, 546, 559 S.E.2d 233, 236, disc. review denied, 356 N.C. 163, 568 S.E.2d 192 (2002)(citing In re Ballard, 311 N.C. 708, 715, 319 S.E.2d 227, 232 (1984)). "If the trial court's findings of fact are supported by competent evidence, they are conclusive on appeal." In re Weiler, 158 N.C. App. 473, 477, 581 S.E.2d 134, 137 (2003).
    In this case, the child was removed from respondent's custody in February 2002. Fourteen months later, the trial court ordered that reunification efforts cease. The evidence showed that: (1) respondent had a history of substance abuse dating back to just after the child's birth; (2) respondent routinely failed tosuccessfully complete drug treatment programs and other goals set by DSS aimed at creating a satisfactory situation for the child; and (3) despite being given more than a year to accomplish these goals, respondent tested positive for drugs on 3 March 2003. Based on this evidence, the trial court made sufficient findings of fact as required by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-907 and did not err in concluding that any further efforts for reunification would be futile.
    The trial court's findings of fact are sufficiently supported by competent evidence and the findings support the trial court's conclusions of law. We affirm the order of the trial court.
    Chief Judge MARTIN and Judge BRYANT concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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