IN RE: Lee County
A.Q., D.Q., L.Q., J.D.
Beverly D. Basden, P.C., by Beverly D. Basden, for petitioner-
appellee Lee County Department of Social Services.
Elizabeth Myrick Boone for appellee Guardian ad Litem.
Harrington Ward Gilleland & Winstead, by Eddie Winstead, III, for appellee Guardian ad Litem.
Fred D. Webb, Jr. for respondent-appellee Louis Lee Davis.
Robert Reives for respondent-appellee Nicholas Quick.
Susan J. Hall for respondent-appellant.
Lydia Quick (respondent) appeals from an order terminating her parental rights to the minor children A.Q., D.Q., L.Q., and J.D. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the order of the trial court.
The Lee County Department of Social Services (LCDSS) became involved with respondent's family on 7 July 2002 when L.Q. was left alone in a Lee County Wal-Mart store. L.Q. was taken to the police station where respondent and Louis Lee Davis (Davis) cametogether to pick him up. Respondent stated Davis was her friend. LCDSS ran a criminal record check on Davis and discovered that he had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the death of his four-month-old daughter from a previous relationship, who died from injuries consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome. Additionally, Davis's parental rights to two other children were terminated in 2003 by the Harnett County Department of Social Services as a result of injuries to one of the children consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome. Respondent admitted that she was aware of Davis's criminal history, but asserted that the convictions were a result of a conspiracy against him.
LCDSS also ran a criminal background check on Nicholas Quick (Quick), the father of L.Q., A.Q., and D.Q. At the time of the hearing, Quick was incarcerated for kidnapping and assault on a female for an incident involving respondent. There was also a history of domestic violence between Quick and respondent.
LCDSS received additional reports on 6 June 2003 and 13 January 2004 regarding the children. On each occasion, respondent denied leaving the children at home alone with Davis. However, Davis was at the home on several visits from LCDSS, and on one occasion was the only adult present.
On 9 March 2004, J.D. was born to Davis and respondent. J.D. began to experience irritability and subsequently had a seizure. Respondent took him to UNC Hospital on 6 May 2004. Dr. Molly Curtin Berkoff of UNC Hospitals diagnosed J.D. with Battered Child Syndrome. The next day, LCDSS was contacted concerning possible abuse and neglect of the children. The paternal grandparents of D.Q., A.Q., and L.Q. reported the incident with J.D, as well as bruises they had noticed on D.Q. and A.Q. that appeared to be hand prints.
Both respondent and Davis denied knowledge of how the children were injured. However, respondent eventually admitted leaving the children home alone with Davis on three separate occasions. Respondent left all four children alone with Davis on 28 April 2004 and 5 May 2004. She left three of the children alone with Davis on 4 May 2004 while she took L.Q. to the dentist.
LCDSS filed a juvenile petition on 21 May 2004 alleging that respondent and/or her boyfriend, Davis, had abused and/or neglected D.Q., A.Q., L.Q., and J.D. The children were placed in the custody of LCDSS. D.Q., A.Q., and L.Q. were placed in the physical care of their paternal grandparents and J.D was placed with his maternal grandmother. There were multiple continuances granted in an effort to serve Davis with the petition and summons. The adjudication hearing was held on 24 August 2004 and all four children were adjudicated abused and neglected.
In a subsequent dispositional hearing on the same day, the trial court found that a plan for reunification of the family was feasible upon the completion of psychological testing of respondent. The trial court determined that it was in the children's best interests to remain in the custody of LCDSS and maintain their current placements, with visitation granted to respondent. The trial court further ordered that all of theparents pay child support for the children, and that Davis was to have no contact with the children. The case was set for review on 23 November 2004.
Respondent's motion for change of venue to Robeson County was denied on 9 November 2004, and the review hearing was continued twice due to conflicts with respondent's attorney and Quick's attorney. J.D. was removed from his maternal grandmother's care and placed in foster care on 22 November 2004 due to concerns about the maternal grandmother's home.
The continued review hearing was conducted on 18 January 2005. The trial court found that respondent had made some progress in addressing the issues that led to the removal of the children, in that respondent had completed a case plan with LCDSS and agreed not to have relationships with Quick, Davis, or other abusive men. The trial court continued the plan for reunification as well as legal custody of all children with LCDSS. Another review hearing was set for 24 May 2005.
Respondent filed a motion on 17 May 2005 to return the children to her custody following incarceration of Davis pursuant to a guilty plea for the charges related to injuries inflicted on J.D. The motion was heard on 24 May 2005. Respondent reported that she had begun a relationship with Julius Johnson (Johnson), who had previously been convicted of indecent liberties with a child. Respondent stated that she mainly went to church with Johnson, but the trial court found such testimony not credible. The trial court found that although respondent could articulatered flags in a relationship, she did not demonstrate that she recognized beginning a relationship with a potentially abusive or sexually aggressive person. The trial court also found that respondent did not have an established residence or employment, and was in arrears on her court-ordered child support. The trial court ordered that reunification efforts should cease and the permanent plan be changed to adoption.
On 29 July 2005, LCDSS filed a motion to terminate the parental rights of Davis, Quick, and respondent. Subsequently, respondent's attorney withdrew from the case due to a change in employment and several continuances were granted for respondent to receive appointment of new counsel. The termination hearing was held on 18 October 2005.
Testimony was offered by S.R., a half brother to D.Q., A.Q., and L.Q., that he stayed at respondent's home on many occasions, and that he saw Davis hit the children. He also testified that respondent was in the room when this occurred and did nothing to stop Davis. According to S.R., respondent sat in the corner and cried.
Respondent testified that she moved into a house in Hope Mills, North Carolina, two weeks before the hearing. Respondent also testified that she had recently obtained new employment at a salon as a massage therapist beginning in September 2005.
Additional evidence presented at the hearing revealed that respondent appeared to care for her children and attended substantially all visits with them. Although respondent completedher parenting program and counseling through the domestic abuse center, testimony was given that the women that take the courses tend to return to abusers 6 to 8 times. Respondent had completed a psychological evaluation and was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. Respondent's therapist testified that if respondent could establish a stable home with stable employment so that she did not need to be dependent on others, she would be able to protect her children.
The trial court found that respondent was aware of Davis's history with children and his abusive nature with her own children, but did nothing to protect the children. The trial court further found that respondent never established an appropriate residence for the children until more than a year after they were removed from her care and, but for the continuances, she would not have had a residence at the time of the hearing. Additionally, the trial court found that even though respondent now had a residence, she could not guarantee that she could continue to make the house payments or pay the bills necessary to adequately provide for the children.
The trial court concluded that there was sufficient evidence that respondent had not learned the lessons of the domestic violence group and that she was likely to repeat her history of choosing men who are abusive. The trial court also found that the cost of care for the children exceeded $18,000.00 and that respondent paid less than $2,400.00 toward their care. The trial court ordered the termination of respondent's parental rights to her children on the grounds that respondent had not made reasonable efforts to correct the circumstances that necessitated the children's removal from her home, and held that it was in the children's best interests to terminate respondent's parental rights. Respondent appeals.
*** Converted from WordPerfect ***