An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority.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. COA04-903

NORTH CAROLINA COURT OF APPEALS

Filed: 19 April 2005

IN RE S.D.,
    Minor Child.                Guilford County
                            No. 04 J 19
                                
                        

    Appeal by Respondent from order entered 6 May 2004 by Judge Susan Burch in District Court, Guilford County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 8 March 2005.

    Michael K. Newby, for petitioner-appellee.

    Susan J. Hall, for respondent-appellant.

    WYNN, Judge.

    Under North Carolina law, a child whose physical or emotional condition has been or is in danger of becoming impaired as a result of the failure of the parent or guardian to exercise that degree of care consistent with the normative standards imposed upon parents by society may be considered neglected. In re Thompson, 64 N.C. App. 95, 99-100, 306 S.E.2d 792, 794-95 (1983). In this appeal, Respondent contends, inter alia, that the trial court abused its discretion in concluding as a matter of law that the child in this matter was neglected. Because Respondent does not assign error to the findings of fact and those findings support the conclusion that the child was neglected, we uphold the trial court's order.
    S.D., whose mother is deceased, lived with Respondent, hermaternal aunt, and Respondent's husband. The record reflects that, on 31 December 2003, the Guilford County Department of Social Services (DSS) received a report that S.D. had been beaten with a belt and forced to strip off her clothes by Respondent's husband. The report also alleged that S.D. had previously been beaten by Respondent and her husband.
    On 2 January 2004, Kimberly Miles of DSS interviewed S.D., who confirmed the allegations in the report. Ms. Miles also interviewed Respondent, who was aware of the allegations, and Respondent's husband, who confirmed the allegations. Ms. Miles discovered previous substantiations of sex abuse by Respondent's husband involving another female child in 2001, as well as substantiations of lack of supervision and neglect.
    On 5 January 2004, Ms. Miles and another DSS representative met with Respondent and her husband to implement a safety plan. The plan called for S.D. to reside with her great-grandmother at least until DSS completed its investigation. Respondent and her husband were instructed not to contact S.D. during that time. However, at the hearing, Ms. Miles testified that in contravention of the plan, Respondent and her husband contacted S.D. _ an allegation Respondent denied.
    On 15 January 2004, DSS filed a petition alleging that S.D. was neglected and dependent. In a contested hearing, Respondent acknowledged that the allegations about her husband's conduct toward S.D. were true but argued that the conduct did not cause concern. The trial court found S.D. to be neglected and dependent,and Respondent appealed.

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    Preliminarily, we note that Respondent has not assigned error to any of the trial court's findings of fact. “[W]hen counsel fails to except to findings of fact, they are deemed supported by competent evidence and are conclusive on appeal.” In re Pierce, 67 N.C. App. 257, 259, 312 S.E.2d 900, 902 (1984) (citation omitted); In re Humphrey, 156 N.C. App. 533, 540, 577 S.E.2d 421, 426 (2003) (“Findings of fact to which a respondent did not object are conclusive on appeal.” (citation omitted)). If those findings of fact support the trial court's conclusions of law, the trial court's order should be affirmed. In re Everette, 133 N.C. App. 84, 85, 514 S.E.2d 523, 525 (1999) (where the findings of fact support the conclusions of law and the conclusions of law support the judgment, the trial court's decision should be affirmed); In re Hughes, 74 N.C. App. 751, 759, 330 S.E.2d 213, 219 (1985) (“If the conclusion of law is supported by findings of fact based on clear, cogent and convincing evidence, the order appealed from should be affirmed.”). We therefore look only to whether the trial court's findings of fact support its conclusions of law.
    
On appeal, Respondent contends that the trial court abused its discretion in concluding as a matter of law that S.D. was neglected. North Carolina General Statute section 7B-101(15) defines a neglected juvenile as:
        A juvenile who does not receive proper care, supervision, or discipline from the juvenile's parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker; or who . . . . lives in an environment injuriousto the juvenile's welfare . . .. In determining whether a juvenile is a neglected juvenile, it is relevant whether that juvenile lives in a home where another juvenile has died as a result of suspected abuse or neglect or lives in a home where another juvenile has been subjected to abuse or neglect by an adult who regularly lives in the home.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(15) (2004). A child whose physical or emotional condition has been or is in danger of becoming impaired as a result of the failure of his or her parent or guardian to exercise that degree of care consistent with the normative standards imposed upon parents by society may be considered neglected. In re Thompson, 64 N.C. App. at 99-100, 306 S.E.2d at 794-95. Moreover, an individual's lack of concern for his/her child is simply an alternate way of stating that the individual has failed to exercise proper care, supervision, and discipline as to that child, i.e., that the child is neglected. In re Williamson, 91 N.C. App. 668, 674-75, 373 S.E.2d 317, 320 (1988).
    Here, the district court's findings of fact established that:
        S.D.'s uncle[] had whipped her with a belt and forced her to remove her clothing following the beating as a form of punishment. Upon inquiry he said he had her remove her clothes in order to embarrass her and hurt her feelings. [He] also had told the child that if she continued misbehaving she would have to undress in front of the family. DSS had previously substantiated neglect on [S.D.'s uncle] for sexual abuse involving another female child. The Court determines not only that this incident actually happened as described, but that the caretaker, the maternal aunt, knew about this the [sic] incident prior to the investigation and did not perceive any problem with this form of discipline by her husband. Although acknowledging that was his intention to hurt the child's feelings, [Respondent] stated inCourt that while she would not have done it (the stripping) herself, she understood why he did it . . ..

The trial court's findings that Respondent's husband beat S.D. and made her remove her clothing, that sexual abuse allegations against Respondent's husband as to another female child had been substantiated, and that Respondent knew of this conduct yet was not concerned by it and found it justified, support the trial court's conclusion that S.D. was neglected. These findings, which are unchallenged by Respondent, support the conclusion that Respondent failed to take proper care of S.D., failed to exercise proper concern for S.D., and had S.D. living in an environment injurious to S.D.'s welfare. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(15). Accordingly, we hold that the trial court did not err in concluding that S.D. was a neglected juvenile.
    
Respondent next contends that the trial court abused its discretion in concluding as a matter of law that S.D. was dependent. North Carolina General Statute section 7B-101(9) defines a dependent juvenile as:
        
A juvenile in need of assistance or placement because the juvenile has no parent, guardian, or custodian responsible for the juvenile's care or supervision or whose parent, guardian, or custodian is unable to provide for the care or supervision and lacks an appropriate alternative child care arrangement.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(9) (2004).     
    Here, the district court's findings of fact established that:
        At the time the Petition was filed the child had been living at the home of her maternal aunt and uncle since she was one because her mother had died. The biological father of thechild had been unsuccessful in previous attempts to obtain custody of her. Therefore, the Court also finds that the juvenile is dependent because there is no appropriate legal custodian authorized to make decisions on her behalf.

Here, the trial court's findings that S.D.'s mother was dead, that her father failed to get custody of her, and that Respondent had neglected her support the trial court's conclusion that S.D. was a dependent juvenile. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(9). Since Respondent did not challenge these findings, we must uphold the trial court's conclusion that S.D. was a dependent juvenile.
    Respondent failed to argue her two remaining assignments of error. They are therefore deemed abandoned. See N.C. R. App. P. 28(a).
    For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the order of the trial court.
    Affirmed.
    Judges TYSON and ELMORE concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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