Appeal by respondent from judgment entered 12 May 2005 by
Judge Lee W. Gavin in Randolph County District Court. Heard in the
Court of Appeals 13 November 2006.
Michael J. Reece for respondent-appellant.
David A. Perez, Randolph County Department of Social Services,
Elizabeth A. Stephenson for the Guardian ad Litem.
MARTIN, Chief Judge.
Respondent appeals from a judgment ordering the termination of
her parental rights with regard to her minor child, S.L., and
changing the permanency plan for S.L. to adoption.
In May 2004, respondent was arrested and incarcerated in the
Davidson County jail, and respondent placed her minor child, S.L.,
with an acquaintance who later turned the child in to Archdale
Police because he could not care for the child. On 2 September
2004, the court adjudicated minor child, S.L., to be a dependent
juvenile. The court ordered respondent to participate in substance
abuse counseling, visit with the child at the discretion of the
Randolph County Department of Social Services (DSS), obtain and
maintain stable and appropriate housing, provide accurate telephonenumbers to DSS, obtain and maintain stable employment, sign
releases for DSS to obtain her medical and psychological records,
and obtain a psychological evaluation.
On 12 May 2005, the court heard the matter on permanency
planning review. For the five months preceding the hearing,
respondent had been living with an elderly man who was about sixty
years old and from whom she rented a room in his three-bedroom,
two-bath house. Respondent was self-employed cleaning houses and
a doctor's office and earned about $225 per week. Respondent
remained on probation in Davidson County, where she had completed
one drug test for her probation officer that was reported as
negative, but she had several positive drug screens for DSS over
the course of the case. Respondent had been seeing a therapist for
four weeks prior to the hearing, although no psychological
examination report was made available to the court. DSS made
referrals on two occasions for respondent to engage in parenting
classes, and respondent failed to participate in either. DSS
arranged for a psychological evaluation of respondent on three
occasions, and respondent failed to complete the evaluation on all
three occasions. Respondent tested positive for Methamphetamine
in January 2005, failed to submit to a random drug screen in March
2005, and refused a hair drug test in April 2005; she was difficult
to locate for random drug screens. Respondent had not complied
with a second substance abuse assessment or any drug treatment.
S.L. was placed in a therapeutic group home designed to meet
the sexual reactive issues she presented. The group home wouldalso treat all of S.L.'s diagnosed mental health issues and assist
with her behavioral problems.
The court found that it was not possible for the juvenile to
be returned home within the next six months, that there were no
known relatives available who were willing to become a placement
resource for the juvenile, that the permanent plan for the juvenile
should be changed to termination of parental rights and adoption,
and that the juvenile should remain in her current placement. The
court ordered that the permanent plan for S.L. be changed to
termination of parental rights and adoption and that DSS be
relieved of any further reunification efforts with respondent.
Respondent appealed the order, assigning error to a lack of
necessary findings of fact and to the court's conclusions of law.
Respondent makes two arguments on appeal. First, she argues
that the trial court erred in ordering that DSS need not maintain
reasonable reunification efforts without making the findings
required by N.C.G.S. § 7B-507. Section 7B-507(b) states:
[T]he court may direct that reasonable
efforts to eliminate the need for placement of
the juvenile shall not be required or shall
cease if the court makes written findings of
(1) Such 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[.]
Furthermore, [w]hen a trial court is required to make findings of
fact, it must make the findings of fact specially. In re Weiler
158 N.C. App. 473, 478, 581 S.E.2d 134, 137 (2003) (quoting In reHarton
, 156 N.C. App. 655, 660, 577 S.E.2d 334, 337 (2003)).
However, the court need not use the exact statutory language. See
at 478-79, 581 S.E.2d at 137. We review the findings of fact
to see if they are sufficient to satisfy the requirements of
N.C.G.S. § 7B-507. Although respondent assigned error to some of
the court's findings of fact, she did not set them out or argue
them in her brief, and we deem them abandoned pursuant to N.C.R.
App. P. 28(b)(6). Since respondent abandoned all exceptions to the
findings of fact, they are presumed to be correct and supported by
the evidence. In re Moore
, 306 N.C. 394, 404, 293 S.E.2d 127, 133
(1982). We conclude that the trial court's findings on the whole,
and findings 17, 26, and 32 in particular, satisfy the statutory
Finding 17 indicates that S.L. was placed in a group home to
address the sexual reactive issues she presented, as well as her
other diagnosed mental health issues. Finding 26 indicates that
the respondent had not complied with drug testing, parenting
classes, or the court-ordered psychological evaluation. In light
of S.L.'s previous exposure to health and safety risks and
respondent's failure to take steps to improve her parenting
abilities, the trial court's findings are sufficient to show that
efforts toward reunification would be inconsistent with S.L.'s
health and safety. Finding 32 states that it is not possible for
this juvenile to be returned home within the next six months,
which is sufficient to show that efforts toward reunification would
not result in a safe and permanent home for S.L. within areasonable period of time. Since the court's findings satisfy the
statutory requirement under N.C.G.S. § 7B-507, we affirm the trial
court's order that DSS is relieved of any further reunification
efforts with respondent.
Respondent next argues that the trial court erred in its
second and third conclusions of law because they were not supported
by the findings of fact. We disagree. The trial court's
conclusions of law in a termination of parental rights proceeding
are reviewable de novo on appeal. In re J.S.L.
, ___ N.C. App. ___,
___, 628 S.E.2d 387, 389 (2006). The standard of review of
conclusions of law is whether they are supported by the findings of
fact. In re J.G.B.
, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___, 628 S.E.2d 450, 454
The second and third conclusions of law state: The best plan
of care to achieve a safe and permanent home for this juvenile
within a reasonable period of time is Termination of Parental
Rights and Adoption; and [t]here is no reasonable alternative and
it is in the best interest of the juvenile, S.L., that she continue
in the custody of Randolph County Department of Social Services and
that the Department proceeds with Termination of Parental Rights
and Adoption. Both of these conclusions are adequately supported
by all the findings, in particular the findings that it was not
possible for the juvenile to return home within the next six months
and no known relatives were available and willing to become a
placement resource for the juvenile. Because they are supported bythe findings, we find no error in the trial court's conclusions of
law. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
Judges TYSON and CALABRIA concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).
*** Converted from WordPerfect ***