An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority.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. COA03-1326


Filed: 03 August 2004

In re: A.L. and N.W.                 Mecklenburg County            
                                No. 2000-J-967, 968

    Appeal by respondent from judgment entered 16 May 2002 by Judge Louis A. Trosch, Jr., in Mecklenburg County District Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 9 June 2004.

    Connelia Houston, Associate County Attorney, for petitioner- appellee Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services.

    Chiege O. Kalu Okwara for respondent-appellant.

    STEELMAN, Judge.

    Respondent-mother, C.B.B., appeals the district court's order terminating her parental rights to two of her four children, A.L., born December 1998, and N.W., born February 1991.
    Respondent-mother (mother) is the natural mother of four girls, two of which are the subject of this appeal. Each of the children have different fathers, none of which have established paternity or have been involved in the children's lives. The girls have a long history of placement in foster care. Starting in 1986, Social Services in New Jersey began providing family services. Between 1989 and 1991, the girls were adjudicated neglected and removed from the home on several occasions. Social Services in NewJersey placed them in foster care, however, on each occasion the children were returned to their mother.
    Mecklenburg County Youth and Family Services (YFS) became involved with the family in January 1996 after receiving a report alleging that an older sibling had been sexually molested by a cousin's boyfriend. Thereafter, YFS received a string of referrals alleging the mother was abusing the children. These referrals included a February 1996 referral alleging the mother whipped A.L. and cut her skin, that the child came to school dirty, and she often smelled of urine. YFS was unable to substantiate the allegations and the case was closed. In February 1999, YFS received another referral claiming the mother beat and whipped her children and slammed one child down on the floor, leaving cuts and bruises. Upon the mother signing a protection plan agreeing not to use inappropriate discipline on the children, YFS closed the case. Mecklenburg DSS became involved with the family again in May 2000. The mother had gone to Mexico and had left the children with a friend she had only known for a short time. When the mother returned from her trip and came to retrieve the girls, they refused to go with her. The mother only regained custody of her children after police intervention. Later that month, YFS received several abuse referrals, alleging the mother beat the children with a bat, threw things at them, slammed one child on the floor, and otherwise maltreated them. YFS substantiated the referral for neglect based on inappropriate discipline and an injurious environment. Thereafter, YFS began providing treatment services to the family. However, the mother was resistant to the services and told one social worker “if you can't help me get supplies, then I'm not talking to you.” Despite the fact the mother received benefits for her four children and YFS provided food and supplies to the family, the mother consistently failed to have adequate supplies in the home.
    On 26 September 2000, YFS received a neglect referral alleging mother had beaten the eldest child with a stick, leaving bruises and welts on her body, while the eldest child was holding her own baby. YFS substantiated the claims of physical abuse on the two oldest siblings, and also substantiated claims of neglect as to A.L. and N.W. Two days later, YFS filed a petition for custody of all four of the children alleging they were abused, neglected, and dependent. All of the children were placed in foster care. The trial court held an initial hearing on 3 October 2000, and ordered the children remain in foster care and allowed the mother supervised visitation with her children.
    The trial court held an adjudicatory hearing on 7 December 2000 and 8 January 2001. At the hearing the trial court found there was a chronic, consistent, and severe history of physical abuse by the mother. The trial court found that the mother hit the children with various objects including: a wooden rolling pin, a telephone, switches, broom handles, sticks, cloths hangers, bats, curtain rods, lotion bottles, and pretty much “anything else she could get her hands on.” On at least one occasion the mother tied up A.L., placed a rag in her mouth, hung her upside down, and beather in the presence of the other siblings. The court also found the children to be emotionally abused. As a result of the evidence and documentation presented at the hearing, the court adjudicated the children to be abused, neglected, and dependent within the meaning of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101. As a result of the mother's improper behavior during prior visits with her children, the court denied her further visitation and prohibited her from having contact with the children. The court held a dispositional hearing on 21 March 2001. During this hearing the court adopted the case plan presented by YFS. Reunification with mother was not recommended due to her failure to follow through with parent education services provided by YFS.
    On 13 September 2001, the court held a review hearing. As part of the trial court's order, it required the mother to “engage in individual therapy” prior to having visitation with the children. YFS had no contact with the mother until the 29 November 2001 review hearing. It was not until approximately five months following the review hearing that the mother had any contact with YFS.
    In February 2002, YFS filed a motion seeking termination of parental rights of the children, and on 10 May 2002 the trial court entered an order granting that motion. As part of the order, the trial court took judicial notice of and incorporated by reference the findings of fact made in the adjudication order. The trial court then went on to make further detailed findings of fact. Based on those findings, the trial court terminated the parentalrights of the mother and the putative fathers. In its order the court cited five of the nine statutory grounds listed in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111 as separate bases for terminating parental rights. The mother appeals.
    The mother contends the trial court erred in entering the termination of parental rights order as the findings of fact were not supported by the evidence and, in turn, the findings do no not support the conclusions of law. We disagree.
    A trial court has the authority to terminate parental rights upon a finding of any one of the enumerated circumstances listed in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a). Where the court's findings are supported by competent evidence, those findings are binding on appeal, even if there is evidence to the contrary. In re Williamson, 91 N.C. App. 668, 674, 373 S.E.2d 317, 320 (1988). The petitioner has the burden of proving such facts which would justify termination by “clear and convincing evidence.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(b) (2003). See In re Faircloth, 153 N.C. App. 565, 575, 571 S.E.2d 65, 72 (2002) (noting the clear and convincing standard of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(b) is synonymous with the clear, cogent, and convincing standard of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1109(f)). After careful review of the record and transcripts, we hold that the findings of fact were supported by clear and convincing evidence.
    Since we have determined the trial court's findings were supported by the evidence, we now consider whether those findings support the conclusions of law. As one of the grounds forterminating parental rights, the court cited N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B- 111(a)(2). This provision states that a trial court may terminate parental rights upon a finding that “the parent has willfully left the juvenile in foster care or placement outside the home for more than 12 months without showing to the satisfaction of the court that reasonable progress under the circumstances has been made in correcting those conditions which led to the removal of the juvenile.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(2) (2003). The twelve- month period referenced in this statute refers to the twelve months leading up to the filing of the petition for termination of parental rights. In re Pierce, 356 N.C. 68, 75, 565 S.E.2d 81, 86 (2002). The trial court may find the parent acted willfully even though they made some attempt to regain custody of the child, where the parent failed to demonstrate reasonable progress or a positive response towards the efforts of the agency attempting to help them. In re Nolen, 117 N.C. App. 693, 700, 453 S.E.2d 220, 225 (1995). “Positive response” means more than the parent made some efforts towards improving the situation which led to the removal of the children. Id. Implicit in the meaning of “positive response” is a requirement that the efforts taken have procured positive results. Id. However, “extremely limited progress is not reasonable progress.” Id at 700, 453 S.E.2d at 224-25.
    The findings of fact clearly establish that the children have been in YFS's care for the twelve months proceeding the termination of parental rights hearing. Further, those findings demonstrate that their mother willfully left them in foster care during thisperiod. The trial judge found that (1) the mother only attended the first day of the adjudicatory hearing and did not attend the dispositional hearing; (2) the mother went long periods of time without contacting YFS or the court regarding her children; (3) she failed to provide YFS with a legitimate address or means of contacting her; and (4) on several occasions her whereabouts were unknown.
    The trial judge also made findings demonstrating that the mother failed to make reasonable progress in correcting the conditions which led to the removal of her children. At the review hearing held on 12 July 2001, the mother expressed a desire to be reunified with her children. As a result, the court ordered YFS to conduct a staffing conference to discuss a case plan for the mother. In its order entered 13 September 2001, the court adopted the case plan YFS presented. The case plan called for mother to participate in parenting classes and individual therapy including anger management through either The Family Center or CMC Randolph. However, the trial court found that:
        24. The mother has continually placed blame on the children for their abuse. The mother also fails to take responsibility for her actions and constantly attributes fault to the children.
        . . . .
        28. The mother has not engaged in any individual therapy. Although the mother continually indicates she has received all the services she needs “through parenting classes,” the Court does not find that training to be appropriate. The Court notes that the parenting classes were a fifteen-hour video-based class that did not include one-on- one services or specify any particular type of treatment. There has been no evidencepresented that the parenting class provided any in-depth treatment for anger management or individual therapy as needed by the mother.

        29. The Court also notes that the mother indicates she completed these classes in May of 2001. The mother still has not demonstrated that those classes were equivalent to the classes that would be required by The Family Center or CMC Randolph.

        30. The mother's testimony today acknowledges that she was abusive to her children. The mother further acknowledged that this was based in part on abuse she had suffered as a child. The mother indicates she has not engaged in any counseling or therapy to specifically deal with those issues.

        31. The mother has not attended nor has she participated in the children's therapy. The Court further finds that the mother has specifically worked against the therapy of the children and has violated repeated requests of the therapist not to contact the children.
        32. There is no evidence that the mother has ever received a recommendation from any therapist that it is appropriate for her to have unsupervised contact with her children. Although the mother acknowledges the abuse she suffered as a child and acknowledges that the abuse effected [sic] her, she continues to deny her need for therapy.

        33. The mother's continued contact with the children outside the therapeutic setting demonstrates that she has no understanding of her children's needs. She has not demonstrated appropriate decision making skills in that regard.
    In further support of the mother's lack of “positive response,” the trial court found that the mother had a hostile attitude towards YFS, refused to sign case plans, and refused to provide contact information. Consequently, the mother's extremely limited progress was not reasonable progress. We hold that thetrial court's findings of fact were sufficient to support its conclusion that respondent's lack of progress during the twelve months preceding YFS's petition justified termination of her parental rights under section 7B-1111(a)(2). Having concluded that the findings of fact support at least one ground for termination of parental rights, we need not address the additional grounds found by the trial court. See In re Brim, 139 N.C. App. 733, 743, 535 S.E.2d 367, 373 (2000).
    The mother also challenges the trial court's determination that it was in the children's best interests for the parent's parental rights to be terminated.
    After the court finds that grounds for terminating parental rights are present, the court then proceeds to the disposition stage to consider if it is in the children's best interests to terminate the parental rights. In re Yocum, 158 N.C. App. 198, 206, 580 S.E.2d 399, 404, aff'd per curium, 357 N.C. 568, ___ S.E.2d ___ (2003); N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1110 (2003). We review the trial court's decision to terminate parental rights applying an abuse of discretion standard. Id.
    In its conclusions of law the trial court stated:
        10. It is in the best interests of each of these children that the parental rights of their respective parents be terminated. The probability over time that the parents will improve is slim. The children can not wait for the parents to learn appropriate parenting and to utilize those skills. These children are young, have spent a significant percentage of their lives in foster care, need stability and safety in their lives, and are adoptable.
After careful review, we hold the trial court did not abuse its discretion in terminating the mother's parental rights as evidenced by the fact that: (1) the record shows the children were previously adjudicated abused, neglected, and dependent as to the mother; (2) which evidence demonstrated a “chronic, consistent and severe history of physical abuse by the mother[;]” (3) the mother continues to place blame on the children for their abuse and fails to take responsibility for her actions; and (4) the mother has also failed to recognize her own need for therapy.
    In light of the evidence presented, we hold that the trial court did not err in terminating the mother's parental rights to the minor children. We therefore affirm the order of the trial court.
    Finally, we note that most of pages 26-28 of appellant's brief were copied verbatim from our opinion in In re Weiler, 158 N.C. App. 473, 477-78, 581 S.E.2d 134, 137 (2003). We admonish appellant's counsel that it was inappropriate to copy such a large block of text without clearly showing that it was a direct quotation, and making a proper citation to the source of the material. Counsel shall submit a copy of this opinion along with any application for fees presented to the trial court in this matter.
    Judges TYSON and BRYANT concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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