An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority.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 Procedure.
NORTH CAROLINA COURT OF APPEALS
Filed: 6 June 2006
IN THE MATTER OF: Pitt County
E.M. and Nos. 04 J 10, 11
Appeal by respondents from orders entered 22 November 2004 and
9 March 2005 by Judge David A. Leech in Pitt County District Court.
Heard in the Court of Appeals 23 February 2006.
Anthony Hal Morris for Pitt County Department of Social
Services, petitioner appellee.
Sofie W. Hosford for respondent-mother appellant.
Lisa Skinner Lefler for respondent-father appellant.
The present appeal arises from district court orders
terminating the parental rights of respondent-mother to her minor
children E.M. and I.M. and terminating the parental rights of
respondent-father to his minor child E.M. On appeals filed by both
respondents, we affirm the orders of the district court.
E.M. was born in September of 1998, and I.M. was born in July
of 2000. E.M. and I.M. are the biological children of respondent-
mother. E.M., but not I.M., is the biological child of respondent-
E.M. was placed in the custody of the Pitt County Department
of Social Services (DSS) for approximately three to four months in1999. Both children were removed from the home of respondent-
mother at her request in 2002, and they have remained in the care
of DSS since that time. Respondent-mother requested removal of the
children because she could not find a job, was living with her
mother, and just couldn't take care of them.
As of July 2002, respondent-mother had no stable housing, no
employment, and no money with which to support the juveniles.
Respondent-mother also tested positive for marijuana use in July
2002. Thereafter, respondent-mother began working thirty-six to
forty hours per week at a Wendy's fast food restaurant, and she
initiated the process of procuring an apartment. In an adjudication
and disposition order entered in December 2002, the district court
ordered respondent-mother to seek substance abuse treatment and to
submit to random drug screens.
Respondent-mother sought a substance abuse assessment, but she
failed to follow the recommendations. Indeed, she continued using
marijuana approximately three or four times per week. Respondent-
mother refused to submit to drug screens because she knew that she
would test positive for marijuana. Respondent- mother was
terminated from her job at Wendy's and was unemployed as of January
2005. Evidence was presented that respondent-mother visited with
the children approximately three times in 2004. Respondent-mother
testified that, although she did not wish to have her parental
rights terminated, she preferred that E.M. and I.M. continue to be
placed with someone else. Respondent-father was incarcerated from 2000 to 2003 for
possession of crack cocaine. By his own admission, respondent-
father had absolutely no contact with E.M. during this period of
incarceration. Further, although respondent- father had several
thousand dollars available to him while he was in prison, he did
not send any money to provide for the care of E.M.. After being
released from prison, respondent- father did not contact DSS to
request visitation, notwithstanding his knowledge that E.M. was in
the custody of DSS, and he neither made telephone calls nor wrote
letters to the child. As of October 2004, respondent-father had
not seen E.M. since 1999 or the first of 2000, and he was again
incarcerated and was facing additional drug charges.
DSS placed the children with Patricia Waller, who had cared
for them since July 2002. While in this placement, the children
did well, and Ms. Waller provided for their financial and emotional
Following a hearing, the district court entered orders in
which it concluded that grounds existed to terminate respondent-
parents' parental rights pursuant to, inter alia, N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 7B-1111(a)(1) because the children were neglected and there was
a high probability that such neglect would continue in the future.
In subsequent orders, the trial court concluded that a termination
of parental rights would be in the children's best interests.
Accordingly, the trial court terminated the parental rights of
respondent-mother as to E.M. and I.M. and terminated the parental
rights of respondent-father as to E.M. Respondents appeal.
On appeal, both respondents assert that the district court
erred by determining that grounds existed to terminate their
parental rights. Each respondent's contention in this regard is
entirely without merit.
This Court reviews an order terminating parental rights for
whether the findings of fact are supported by clear, cogent, and
convincing evidence, and whether those findings of fact support a
conclusion that parental rights should be terminated for one of the
grounds set forth in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a). In re
Oghenekevebe, 123 N.C. App. 434, 439, 473 S.E.2d 393, 398 (1996).
Where a trial court concludes that parental rights should be
terminated pursuant to several of the statutory grounds, the order
of termination will be affirmed if the court's conclusion with
respect to any one of the statutory grounds is supported by
findings of fact which are appropriately grounded in the record.
In re Swisher, 74 N.C. App. 239, 240-41, 328 S.E.2d 33, 34-35
Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(1) (2005), a parent's
rights to a child may be terminated if [t]he parent has . . .
neglected the juvenile. The juvenile shall be deemed to be . . .
neglected if the court finds the juvenile to be . . . a neglected
juvenile within the meaning of [N.C. Gen. Stat. §] 7B-101. N.C.
Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(15) (2005) 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 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.
This Court has upheld a termination of parental rights on the
ground of neglect where a parent refused to correct her substance
abuse problems and failed to make improvements in her lifestyle
which might help her care for and supervise her children. In re
Leftwich, 135 N.C. App. 67, 72-73, 518 S.E.2d 799, 803 (1999).
This Court likewise has upheld a trial court termination of
parental rights on the ground of neglect where a parent, who had
been incarcerated since his child's birth, had not provided any
financial support for the child, had not sought personal contact
with the child or attempted to convey love or affection to the
child, and had rarely inquired about the child. In re Bradshaw,
160 N.C. App. 677, 682, 587 S.E.2d 83, 86 (2003).
In the instant case, respondent-mother placed her children in
the custody of DSS because she was unable to care for them and
refused to address a substance abuse problem which was adversely
affecting her ability to care for the children. Accordingly, the
trial court did not err by concluding that neglect existed as a
ground to terminate respondent-mother's parental rights as to E.M.
and I.M. Further, respondent-father had no contact with E.M. for
approximately five years, offered no financial support to help rear
the child, and did not seek contact or visitation with the child. Accordingly, the trial court did not err by concluding that neglect
existed as a ground to terminate respondent-father's parental
rights as to E.M.
Both respondents also challenge the trial court's best
interests determinations. With respect to each respondent, this
challenge is feckless.
If a trial court determines that grounds to terminate parental
rights 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. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1110(a) (2003), amended by
N.C. Sess. Laws ch. 398, § 17 (effective 1 October 2005).
(See footnote 1)
trial court's decision to terminate parental rights, if based upon
a finding of one or more of the statutory grounds supported by
evidence in the record, is reviewed on an abuse of discretion
standard. In re McMillon
, 143 N.C. App. 402, 408, 546 S.E.2d 169,
174, disc. review denied
, 354 N.C. 218, 554 S.E.2d 341 (2001).
In the instant case, the evidence tended to show that
respondent-parents had engaged in a pattern of neglect that was
likely to recur and that the children were doing well in foster
placement. On these facts, we discern no abuse of discretion in
the district court's determinations that the best interests of E.M.and I.M would be served by a termination of respondent-mother's
parental rights and that the best interest of E.M. would be served
by a termination of respondent-father's parental rights.
It is unnecessary for us to address respondents' remaining
arguments, which challenge the district court's conclusions that
additional grounds existed to terminate each respondent's parental
rights. See Swisher
, 74 N.C. App. at 240-41, 328 S.E.2d at 34-35.
The assignments of error are overruled. The challenged orders are
Judges TYSON and LEVINSON concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).
The 2003 version of the statute was applicable to the
proceedings in the present case.
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