IN RE S.E.C. and S.I.C.,
Alexander County Department of Alexander County
Social Services, Nos. 05 J 65, 66
Thelma and Sydney C.,
Thomas R. Young, for Alexander County Department of Social
Melanie Cranford, for guardian ad litem.
Carol Ann Bauer, for appellee-mother.
Tom Kakassy, for appellee-father.
Alexander County Department of Social Services (DSS) appeals
from an order of the trial court dismissing Juvenile Petitions thatwere filed 3 October 2006. We affirm.
Thelma C. (the mother) and Sydney C. (the father) (collectively, the parents) are the biological parents of S.E.C. and S.I.C. (the minor children). On 3 May 2005, DSS filed juvenile petitions alleging the minor children were neglected and dependent on the grounds the children were exposed to domestic violence and drug abuse in the home, and because the parents' financial situation was unstable. The trial court issued a nonsecure custody order that was dissolved when the minor children were placed with the father pending the adjudication.
Initially, the trial court ordered DSS to provide supervised visitation for the mother and the minor children. Approximately six weeks later, the trial court ordered unsupervised visitation between the mother and the minor children. Subsequently, on 3 August 2005, the family was reunited and DSS filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal.
On 3 October 2006, DSS filed new petitions alleging the minor children were neglected and dependent. Grounds for the neglect petition included, inter alia, the parents engaged in criminal activity which compromised their ability to provide a safe permanent home, the parents' probation was revoked for failure to comply with the terms of the probation, the parents failed to maintain stable employment and housing, and the mother abuseddrugs. DSS further alleged the minor children were neglected because the parents were in custody as a result of probation violations, [were] unable to make bond at the time of the filing of [the] petition, and [were] unable to provide an alternate kinship or relative placement to avoid the need for placement . . . in foster care. On the same day, the trial court ordered nonsecure custody and placed the minor children in the custody of DSS.
The adjudication hearing was delayed. Hearings were scheduled for 15 November 2006, 29 November 2006, and 24 January 2007, and then rescheduled because of time constraints. On 7 February 2007, all parties and their attorneys were present for the initial adjudication hearing. On the second day of the hearing, 8 February 2007, the trial court dismissed the Juvenile Petitions. From this dismissal, DSS appeals.
DSS contends the trial court erred by finding and concluding that the minor children were neither neglected nor dependent and dismissing the petitions with prejudice. We disagree.
A dependent juvenile is one who is in need of assistance or placement because the juvenile has no parent, guardian, or custodian responsible for the juvenile's care or supervision or whose parent, guardian, or custodian is unable to provide for the care or supervision and lacks an appropriate alternative child care arrangement. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(9) (2005). North CarolinaGeneral Statute § 7B-101 defines a neglected juvenile as one 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 lives in an environment injurious to the juvenile's welfare... N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(15) (2005).
North Carolina General Statute § 7B-807 states in pertinent part, [i]f the court finds that the allegations have not been proven, the court shall dismiss the petition with prejudice... N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-807 (2005).
On appellate review, this Court must determine whether the trial court's findings of fact are supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence and whether the findings of fact support the conclusions of law. In re J.S.B., ___ N.C. App. ___, ___, 644 S.E.2d 580, 585 (2007) (citing In re Huff, 140 N.C. App. 288, 291, 536 S.E.2d 838, 840 (2000)).
In the case before us, the trial court found the parents' criminal activity did not [compromise] their ability to provide a safe and permanent home for the minor children[,] nor did the probation violations. The mother was on probation for simple assault, and the father was on probation for driving while license revoked. The father was incarcerated for a short time for failing to pay child support for the minor children. However, the father and mother lived together during the period of his alleged failureto pay, and the father was employed.
The mother acknowledged a substance abuse problem and completed classes concerning her substance abuse problem. Under the terms of the mother's probationary sentence for simple assault, she was to attend parenting classes. Although no parenting classes were offered in Alexander County at that time, the mother completed an alternate, appropriate twelve-week course which was approved by DSS.
Additional findings include the parents provided suitable arrangements for the care of their minor children through the Presnells. The children were familiar with the Presnells prior to placing the children with them, because the Presnells helped baby-sit for the children while the father was incarcerated for allegedly failing to pay child support. Furthermore, DSS approved the Presnells as a voluntary placement for the minor children.
The trial court found it reprehensible that DSS would place a child on the stand to present the sole credible evidence of her mother's actions. This evidence was presented by S.E.C., S.I.C.'s sister. S.E.C. stated that she had seen her parents use drugs. Although S.E.C. testified she had seen her parents use drugs on a few occasions, she testified she was not concerned about living at home with her parents. The trial court concluded that DSS failed to present any evidence which would allow the court to find[S.I.C.] to be a neglected or dependent juvenile... The only evidence DSS offered to show S.I.C. may have been abused or neglected was the statement by his sister, S.E.C., saying he had seen the parents use drugs before.
Furthermore, the trial court found there was no evidence to show S.E.C. was neglected or dependent. Because of these findings, the trial court concluded DSS failed to present any evidence which would allow the court to find [S.I.C.] to be a neglected or dependent juvenile . . .
The trial court also concluded DSS failed to present any evidence of any action or inaction by the respondent father [Sidney C.] which would allow either minor child to be adjudicated neglected or dependent.
Based on the evidence presented at trial, DSS failed to establish by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that either of the minor children were dependent or neglected, as defined by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(9) and § 7B-101(15). Therefore, the trial court's conclusions of law are supported by the findings of facts. Because we hold the trial court correctly concluded the minor children were neither dependent nor neglected, we need not address appellant's remaining arguments. The order of the trial court is affirmed.
Judges WYNN and McCULLOUGH concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).
*** Converted from WordPerfect ***