Respondent raises four issues on appeal: whether the trial
court erred (I) in concluding respondent neglected her children;
(II) in concluding respondent left her children in foster care for
more than twelve months; (III) in finding it was in the children's
best interest to terminate respondent's parental rights and (IV) in
making findings of fact that were unsupported by clear, cogent and
Respondent first argues the trial court erred in concluding
she neglected her children. Respondent alleges that neither the
findings of fact nor clear, cogent and convincing evidence support
this ground. We disagree.
The standard for appellate review in a termination of parental
rights matter is whether the trial judge's findings of fact are
supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence, and whether
these findings support its conclusions of law. In re Huff
N.C. App. 288, 291, 536 S.E.2d 838, 840 (2000), disc. review
, 353 N.C. 374, 547 S.E.2d 9 (2001). A court's finding of
one statutory ground for termination, if supported by competent
evidence, will support an order terminating parental rights. In re
, 117 N.C. App. 693, 700, 453 S.E.2d 220, 225 (1995). The
court's decision to terminate parental rights, if based upon a
finding of one or more of the statutory grounds supported by theevidence in the record, is reviewed on an abuse of discretion
standard. In re Brim
, 139 N.C. App. 733, 744, 535 S.E.2d 367, 373
A neglected juvenile is defined as follows:
A juvenile who does not receive proper care,
supervision, or discipline from the juvenile's
parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker; or
who has been abandoned; or who is not provided
necessary medical care; or who is not provided
necessary remedial care; or who lives in an
environment injurious to the juvenile's
welfare; or who has been placed for care or
adoption in violation of law.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(15) (2003). 'Neglect may be manifested
in ways less tangible than failure to provide physical necessities.
Therefore, on the question of neglect, the trial judge may
consider, in addition, a parent's complete failure to provide the
personal contact, love, and affection that inheres in the parental
relationship.' In re Pierce
, 67 N.C. App. 257, 263, 312 S.E.2d
900, 904 (1984) (quoting In re Apa
, 59 N.C. App. 322, 324, 296
S.E.2d 811, 813 (1982)). A finding of neglect sufficient to
terminate parental rights must be based on evidence showing neglect
at the time of the termination proceeding. In re Young
, 346 N.C.
244, 248, 485 S.E.2d 612, 615 (1997) (citation omitted).
In the present case, in addition to the trial court's finding
of fact seventeen which identifies the steps she must take before
the children would be returned to her care, respondent does not
challenge the following findings of the trial court as to neglect
(See footnote 2)
: 20. That the home [in] Wake Forest, N.C. has
not been free from safety concerns in
that there was an incident of domestic
violence on March 18, 2004, at the
residence by a man identified by
[respondent] to [Wake Forest Police
Officer May] as [the father].
[Respondent] informed Officer May that
[the father] beat her up in the face
[and] she was punched with a closed fist
in the head, lips, arms and hands. She
testified on June 23, 2004, that the
person she reported to the officer as
assaulting her was Alterick Hill [and not
21. That [respondent] has maintained
employment most of the time since
Adjudication though it has not always
been stable: She worked two jobs, Burger
King and Hardees, from June to September
2002. In March 2003 she changed to
Wendy's[.] In August 2003, [she] worked
at McDonald's and Wendy's. In October
2003, [she] broke her hand[.] In January
2004, she was back at work[.] [She] did
not show up for work . . . and based on
her history, she was terminated [from
McDonald's and Wendy's by March 11,
2004]. . . . As of August 2004, she was
working at Wal-Mart approximately 33
hours per week and Bojangles ten hours
22. That while [respondent] has had a record
of earning income for most of the period
the children have been in the custody of
Wake County Human Services, she has been
unable to keep her [rent, utility, water,
sewer, sanitation and electricity] bills
paid in a timely fashion. . . .
23. That [respondent] received much
assistance with her bills . . .; however,
despite assistance from others, between
March 2003 and April 2004, no household
account was consistently paid to avoid
past due amounts.
24. That within the month prior to the
hearing in June 2004, electricity hadbeen disconnected at [respondent's]
residence for non-payment of her bill.
25. That according to [respondent's] own
testimony at the conclusion of this
hearing on August 25, 2004, while she was
working at both Wal-Mart and Bojangles,
she still did not have her August rent
fully paid or her Town of Wake Forest
. . .
27. That in a budgeting session on September
11, 2003 . . . [respondent's] monthly
income of $1500 in August 2003 exceeded
her bills of $1000 by $500. . . .
[Respondent was referred to] budget
counseling to assist her with her
. . .
31. That [respondent] has chosen to expend
money on cable television at $39 per
month, has call waiting on her phone
service at $5.00 per month and chose to
buy two outfits from the Finish Line with
shoes included for [her children] which
she brought to the March 16, 2004, court
date at a time when her household
accounts were past due.
32. That [respondent] has had a spotty record
in providing pay stubs to verify income.
She provided no pay stubs to Human
Services for January 2003, April 2003,
late June and July 2003, or for September
. . .
35. That while [respondent] has testified
that she last saw [the father] in 2002 or
the end of 2001 in Wisconsin, and that
she has never seen him in North Carolina
since that time, [her former landlord]
has been introduced to [the father] by
[respondent] and has seen him at least
three times per month at [respondent's]
residence. [The father] has been at the
residence whenever [the landlord] has
gone to the residence [and the landlord]
has seen them together at church . . . as
recently as early June 2004. . . .
37. That a letter written by and read to the
[c]ourt by T.J.W. expressing fear about
past and future violent acts committed by
[the father] on [respondent] was accepted
. . .
44. That [respondent] had involvement with
child protective services in Wisconsin.
Criminal records from Milwaukee County,
Wisconsin show that [the father] pled
guilty to child abuse on [another one of
his children] and was ordered not to be
around him. A copy of his criminal
complaint in Milwaukee County Circuit
Court, State of Wisconsin v. [Father] was
accepted into evidence[.]
The trial court also made specific findings regarding
respondent's care for her children. For example, at the time of
the termination hearing, the trial court found respondent was
providing her children with a place to live in Wake Forest which
had a refrigerator and telephone and respondent was staying current
on her child support. Such findings demonstrated that respondent
had completed some of the court-ordered assignments between the
adjudication and disposition hearing (April 2002) and the
termination hearing (August 2004).
However, respondent did not fully comply with the trial
court's orders. The trial court found that she failed to be
truthful about her continued contact with the father. The trial
court found respondent had failed to produce consistent records of
her pay stubs to Human Services and, despite the fact that her
expenditures exceeded her monthly income by fifty percent, she
failed to participate in budget counseling to assist her withfinancial management. This lack of planning created a tumultuous
life in which the trial court found [n]o children should have to
bear this environment, to wonder if the lights will be on, if the
rent will be paid and if the environment will be safe from domestic
violence. Based on clear, cogent and convincing evidence, the
trial court did not err in determining respondent neglected the
children and there was a probability of the repetition of neglect
if the children were returned to the care of their mother. This
assignment of error is overruled.
Respondent argues the trial court erred in concluding she left
her children in foster care for more than twelve months.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(2) provides:
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. Provided,
however, that no parental rights shall be
terminated for the sole reason that the
parents are unable to care for the juvenile on
account of their poverty.
N.C.G.S. §7B-1111(a)(2) (2003).
The children were placed in foster care in April 2002, twenty-
six months before the hearing to terminate respondent's parental
rights began. At the time of the filing of the termination of
parental rights petition in August 2003, the activities that led to
removal of the children remained unchanged from that of April 2002.
Respondent visited her children while they were in foster care andpaid $11.20 in child support per month for each child. However,
she changed jobs frequently, inconsistently paid her rent and
utilities and spent time, against the trial court's orders, with
the father, who was involved in incidents of domestic violence and
child abuse. In a letter received by the trial court, T.J.W.
described one previous incident as Daddy [has been] beating on
Mommy and will punch [Mommy] in her face and slap [her] down on
the ground. T.J.W. also wrote about asking respondent to leave
her Daddy and to call the police when respondent was hit. The
trial court then found respondent lied to the trial court about her
repeated contact with the father. The trial court properly found
and concluded by clear, cogent and convincing evidence that
respondent had not made reasonable progress to correct the
conditions that led to foster care placement. This assignment of
error is overruled.
Respondent next argues the trial court erred in finding it was
in the children's best interests to terminate her parental rights.
Respondent alleges the trial court abused its discretion in
concluding the children's well-being would not be promoted unless
her parental rights were terminated. We disagree.
If the petitioner proves that one or more grounds for
termination exist, the trial court moves to the disposition phase
at which time the trial court determines whether termination is in
the best interests of the child. N.C.G.S. § 7B-1110 (2003);
, 142 N.C. App. at 610, 543 S.E.2d at 908. The standardof review on appeal is abuse of discretion. Yocum
, 158 N.C. App.
at 206, 580 S.E.2d at 403; Brim
, 139 N.C. App. at 744, 535 S.E.2d
at 373-74. N.C.G.S. § 7B-1110 states:
(a) Should the court determine that any one
or more of the conditions authorizing a
termination of the parental rights of a
parent exist, 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. . . .
(b) Should the court conclude that,
irrespective of the existence of one or
more circumstance authorizing termination
of parental rights, the best interests of
the juvenile require that rights should
not be terminated, the court shall
dismiss the petition or deny the motion,
but only after setting forth the facts
and conclusions upon which the dismissal
or denial is based.
N.C.G.S. § 7B-1110 (2003). The trial court found respondent has
had continued contact with the father, exposed the children to
domestic violence and has not properly managed her finances so that
the basic needs of the children are met. The trial court found
clear indications respondent is either unwilling or incapable of
assuming the responsibilities associated with the proper care of
her children. Therefore, the trial court concluded the best
interests of the juveniles would be promoted by terminating the
respondent's parental rights. Here, the trial court set out
detailed findings based on substantial and competent evidence which
support the conclusion that it is in the best interest of the threechildren to terminate respondent's parental rights. This
assignment of error is overruled.
Respondent argues the trial court abused its discretion in
terminating respondent's parental rights. We disagree.
Once the trial court determines that grounds exist for
authorizing the termination of parental rights, the court must, in
its discretion, determine whether such termination is in the best
interests of the children. N.C.G.S. § 7B-1110 (2003). Appellate
review is limited to whether the trial court abused its discretion.
In re Anderson
, 151 N.C. App. 94, 564 S.E.2d 599 (2002).
Throughout these proceedings, the trial court heard from the
children, the children's therapists, Wake County Human Services,
the children's Guardian ad Litem, the social worker and respondent.
The trial court therefore determined, in its discretion, that it
was in the best interests of the children to have a permanent plan
of care with the prospect of an adoptive home, rather than live
with respondent. This assignment of error is overruled.
Judges HUDSON and CALABRIA concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).