IN THE MATTER OF:
A.M.B., Mecklenburg County
No. 05 J 830
A MINOR CHILD.
Respondents from orders entered 12 December 2005 and
11 January 2006 by Judge Regan A. Miller in Mecklenburg County
District Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 8 February 2007
Mary McCullers Reece for Respondent-Appellant Mother.
M. Victoria Jayne for Respondent-Appellant Father.
Alan B. Edmonds for Petitioner-Appellee Mecklenburg County
Department of Social Services.
Hunton & Williams LLP, by Eric M.D. Zion, for Guardian ad Litem-Appellee.
Respondents appeal from an order adjudicating minor child A.M.B. neglected and dependent. Respondents also appeal from a dispositional order retaining legal custody of A.M.B. with the Youth and Family Services Division of the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services (YFS), placing A.M.B. with her maternal grandmother, and mandating supervised visitation between A.M.B. and Respondents. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the orders of the trial court.
Shortly after A.M.B. was born in June 2005, YFS opened a case file on the child upon being notified that Respondent-Mother (themother) was having difficulty remembering when to feed her. At that time, A.M.B. and the mother were living in the home of A.M.B.'s maternal grandmother (the grandmother). Respondent- Father (the father) was living in Tennessee, was unaware that he was, in fact, A.M.B.'s father, and had provided no support to the mother. During a home visit on 16 August 2005, the mother told a YFS social worker that she needed some help, had suicidal thoughts, and that she was not able to care for A.M.B. Concerned, the social worker brought the mother to the Carolinas Medical Center Behavioral Health Emergency Room (the Behavioral Health Center) for an evaluation. The psychiatrist on duty (the psychiatrist) diagnosed the mother as paranoid schizophrenic, considered her a danger to herself and/or others, and involuntarily admitted her on 17 August 2005.
After learning that the mother had been involuntarily admitted, the YFS social worker contacted the grandmother who agreed to provide care for A.M.B. The mother consented to the social worker's arrangement. On 23 August 2005, while the mother was still involuntarily committed, YFS filed a juvenile petition alleging dependence in that A.M.B. had no parent, custodian, or guardian willing or able to provide her with placement and assistance. The petition specifically alleged that the mother had been admitted to and remained in the care of the Behavioral Health Center. That same day, the court entered a nonsecure custody order placing A.M.B. in the legal and physical custody of YFS on the grounds that A.M.B.'s parent, guardian, or custodian . . . failedto provide, or is unable to provide, adequate supervision or protection[.] YFS continued A.M.B.'s placement with the grandmother. On 30 August 2005, the mother was released from the Behavioral Health Center, and a seven day hearing was held pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-506. At this hearing, the mother and the father consented to the court's nonsecure custody order, a paternity test was ordered at the father's request, and adjudication was ultimately scheduled for 8 November 2005.
In September 2005, the mother moved to Tennessee and married the father, leaving A.M.B. with the grandmother. On 1 November 2005, YFS filed an amended juvenile petition reasserting its allegation of dependence and alleging neglect in that A.M.B. had been abandoned by her mother, does not receive proper care, supervision or discipline from either of her parents, and would be in an environment injurious to her health if placed with the parents. The petition specifically alleged that the father has a disturbing criminal record and that [t]he mother has effectively abandoned her child because it is difficult to work with her on case plan issues and for YFS and the Court to monitor the treatment of her psychiatric illness since she now lives in Antioch, Tennessee.
The evidence at the adjudication hearing tended to show that the mother had a history of substance abuse and mental health issues. The mother testified that she had been previously diagnosed with substance abuse dependence and that she had been previously hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital. Additionally,she testified that she contracted Hepatitis C from intravenous drug use. The psychiatrist testified that there was a well-documented history of [the mother] having used multiple substances in the past: alcohol, intravenous drugs, cocaine, and cannabis[,] and that the mother admitted to using cannabis just before the birth of [A.M.B.] The psychiatrist also testified that the mother had been urged to begin treatment for schizophrenia in July 2005.
The evidence also tended to show that neither parent had provided any financial support for A.M.B.'s care. The mother testified that she was unemployed from the fall of 2004 until she moved to Tennessee in September 2005. A YFS social worker testified that she was unaware of anything the mother or the father had given to either YFS or the grandmother to help support A.M.B., despite the mother's testimony that they were doing quite well in Tennessee with their car washing and detailing business. When asked why he had not provided any support to A.M.B., the father testified that he [doesn't] send out blank checks.
Finally, the evidence tended to show that the father had a criminal record and a history of substance abuse. The father testified that he had tested positive for cocaine approximately one and a half years before the hearing, and that he had been convicted of criminal trespass and of unlawful possession of a controlled substance without a prescription.
The trial court judge adjudicated A.M.B. neglected and dependent, and scheduled a dispositional hearing for 14 December 2005. In its dispositional order after the hearing, the courtfound that A.M.B.'s return to her parents was contrary to her best interests, ordered that A.M.B. remain in the legal custody of YFS and the physical custody of the grandmother, and required supervised visitation between the parents and A.M.B. Respondents appeal from both orders. (See footnote 1)
The mother argues that this finding was not supported by the
evidence presented at the adjudicatory hearing. We disagree.
YFS social worker testified that she brought the mother to the
Behavioral Health Center after the mother expressed suicidal
thoughts and told the social worker that she was not able to take
care of [A.M.B.]
In unchallenged finding number fourteen, the
court found that A.M.B. was left in the care of [the]
The psychiatrist testified that the mother was
admitted  involuntarily to the Behavioral Health Center becausethe psychiatrist felt the mother was a danger to herself and
potentially other people[.]
The psychiatrist testified further
that the mother's insight was so poor that she was potentially
unable to care for herself. The social worker testified that the
mother consent[ed] to A.M.B.'s placement with the grandmother.
The psychiatrist also testified that the grandmother was caring
for [A.M.B.] after the mother was involuntarily admitted. The
social worker testified that the father was living in Tennessee
when the mother was admitted.
This testimony provides clear, cogent, and convincing evidence in support of the court's finding. A.M.B. was left in the grandmother's care and the grandmother was the only person providing care. The mother, having been involuntarily admitted to a hospital for psychiatric care, did not leave A.M.B. in the grandmother's care voluntarily. The social worker, not the mother, made the agreement with the grandmother to provide for A.M.B.'s care. Accordingly, the mother's assignment of error on this point is without merit and is overruled.
Though the father's brief echoes the mother's argument regarding finding of fact number twenty-nine, the scope of review on appeal is confined to a consideration of those assignments of error set out in the record on appeal[.] N.C. R. App. P. 10(a). As the record indicates that the father did not assign error to finding of fact number twenty-nine, his argument on this issue is dismissed.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(9)
(2005). To adjudicate dependency, a
trial court must address both (1) the parent[s'] ability to
provide care or supervision, and (2) the availability to the
parent[s] of alternative child care arrangements. In re P.M., 169
N.C. App. 423, 427, 610 S.E.2d 403, 406 (2005). In the case at
bar, Respondents challenge the finding of dependency only insofar
as the trial court failed to address the second prong of thedependency analysis: availability to the parents of alternative
child care arrangements.
Finding of fact number twenty-nine states, in part:
29. . . . [A.M.B.] had no one to provide for
her care other than the grandmother. The
mother did not leave the child with the
grandmother voluntarily or have any agreement
that the grandmother would care for the
child. . . .
As we have determined that this finding is supported by clear and
convincing evidence, and as no other findings relate to this issue,
the question becomes whether finding number twenty-nine supports
the conclusion that A.M.B. was dependent in that the mother lacked
an alternative child care arrangement. We find that it does.
We disagree with Respondents' contention that the mother made the arrangement with the grandmother. In our analysis of the sufficiency of the evidence to support the finding, we noted that the social worker testified that the mother consent[ed] to A.M.B.'s placement with the grandmother. YFS, not the mother, made the arrangement with the grandmother to provide for A.M.B.'s care. As such, the court's conclusion that A.M.B. was dependent is supported by its findings.
. . . .
9. . . . While [the mother] was pregnant, [the
father] provided her with no financial support
. . . .
10. [The father] has provided no support for A.M.[B.] since her birth.
. . . .
12. . . . [During the social worker's home
visit on 16 August 2005, the mother made]
statements regarding suicide . . . .
13. . . . [The psychiatrist] believed the
mother was a danger to herself and/or others
. . . .
. . . .
19. In late September 2005, [the mother] moved
to Tennessee with [the father]. . . .
. . . .
23. [The father] has recently started a mobile
car washing and detailing business. He says
he has netted $1500 the two months he has been
in business. He and [the mother] pay his
father $150 per week to rent the upstairs of
24. [The father] has a history of being
arrested in Davidson County, Tennessee. Since
November 2003, he has been arrested for
possession of a controlled substance, criminal
trespass, and indecent exposure. He pled
guilty to possession of a narcotic without a
prescription and criminal trespass.
(See footnote 2)
25. [The mother] has a history of substance
abuse. She admitted using marijuana while
pregnant and has a history of cocaine abuse.
26. [The father] admitted he had cocaine
issues. He entered a 7 day detoxification
program, but has had no further treatment.
27. . . . [N]either parent has made any monetary contribution to the grandmother or YFS to defray the costs of caring for A.M.[B.]
. . . .
30. . . . [N]either parent has provided any support to the grandmother to defray her expenses in providing for the child.
. . . .
32. Continuation of the child in her own home
or return to her parents' home is contrary to
her best interest.
These unchallenged findings support the trial court's
conclusion that A.M.B. was neglected within the meaning of the
statute in that A.M.B. has not receive[d] proper care,
supervision, or discipline from [her] . . . parent[s].
Respondents also argue that there was no finding that A.M.B. was either hurt or threatened with hurt by Respondents' neglect, and that A.M.B.'s environment was not, in fact, threatening her welfare. Where there is no finding that the juvenile has been impaired or is at substantial risk of impairment, there is no error if all the evidence supports such a finding. In re Padgett, 156 N.C. App. 644, 648, 577 S.E.2d 337, 340 (2003) (citation omitted). Here, though there was no finding that A.M.B. was impaired or at a substantial risk of impairment, all of the evidence supports at least a finding that A.M.B. was at a substantial risk of impairment.
As discussed above, the trial court's unchallenged findings are binding on appeal. The trial court found that the mother has a history of psychiatric illness, substance abuse, and cocaine abuse. The trial court found that the mother admitted using marijuana while pregnant. The mother testified that she had contracted Hepatitis C through intravenous drug use. Thepsychiatrist testified that the mother was diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and that she had been a danger to herself and/or others in the recent past. The trial court found that the father had cocaine issues, and that he had a recent criminal history. This evidence supports the conclusion that A.M.B. was at a substantial risk of impairment and was therefore neglected. Accordingly, this assignment of error is overruled.
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