Appeal by respondent mother and respondent father from orders
entered 26 September 2006, 5 February 2007, and 15 February 2007 by
Judge Donna H. Johnson in Cabarrus County District Court. Heard in
the Court of Appeals 4 September 2007.
Juanita B. Allen for petitioner-appellee.
Mercedes O. Chut for respondent-appellant mother.
Carol Ann Bauer for respondent-appellant father.
Victoria Bost for guardian ad litem.
Respondent mother and respondent father appeal from the trial
court's 5 February 2007 order concluding that grounds existed for
terminating their parental rights with respect to the minor
children, C.C. ("Christopher") and B.C. ("Bobby"), and its 15
February 2007 order concluding that termination of parental rights
was in the best interests of the children.
(See footnote 1)
respondent mother appeals from a 26 September 2006 permanencyplanning order authorizing the Cabarrus County Department of Social
Services ("DSS") to cease reunification efforts.
Both parents devote much of their appeal to arguing that the
trial court should have dismissed the motion to terminate parental
rights for inadequate pleading. Neither parent, however, moved to
dismiss the motion before the trial court and, therefore, that
issue has not been properly preserved for appellate review. With
respect to respondent mother's separate arguments, we hold that the
trial court's permanency planning order was supported by the
evidence and the court's findings of fact; the trial court did not
err in failing to appoint a guardian ad litem for the mother; and
the trial court's conclusion that grounds existed under N.C. Gen.
Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(2) (2005) to terminate respondent mother's
parental rights is supported by its findings of fact, which in turn
are supported by the evidence. Finally, as to respondent father's
remaining assignment of error, we hold that the trial court did not
abuse its discretion in concluding that termination of respondent
father's parental rights was in the best interests of the children.
Respondents are the mother and father of Christopher, age
seven, and Bobby, age three. On 11 January 2005, DSS filed a
petition alleging that the two children were neglected in that they
did not receive proper care and supervision from their parents and
lived in an environment injurious to their welfare while in their
parents' care. The petition was based on domestic violence by the
father against the mother and Christopher, the father's mentalillness and substance abuse, and DSS' conclusion that the
children's safety was not the mother's paramount concern. On the
same date, the court ordered DSS to assume non-secure custody of
Respondents each stipulated to an adjudication of neglect, and
the trial court entered a consent order on 25 January 2005 as to
the mother and on 31 March 2005 as to the father, specifying that
the children were neglected as alleged in the petition. The trial
court provided that the permanent plan for the children was
reunification with respondents.
In the two consent orders, both parents were ordered to submit
to a psychological evaluation and comply with any recommendations;
to submit to a substance abuse assessment and follow through with
any treatment recommendations; to submit to random drug screens; to
attend Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous as recommended by
a treatment provider; to attend parenting courses and demonstrate
the skills learned; to obtain stable employment and pay child
support unless they provided the court with documentation of
disability; and to obtain and maintain stable housing. The father
was ordered to attend counseling to address anger management issues
until released by the service provider. The mother was ordered to
attend individual counseling and domestic violence counseling.
Further, the mother was ordered to have no contact with the
father "until such time as both parties have successfully completed
domestic violence & anger management classes/counseling." The
father was ordered to have no contact with the mother so long as heremained under a domestic violence protective order. If released
from the order, the father was directed to have no contact with the
mother until such time as both parents completed domestic violence
and anger management classes and/or therapy.
Following a review hearing on 5 May 2005, the trial court
entered an order finding that "[t]he mother has made no progress."
In the order following a review hearing on 30 September 2005, the
court found that the mother had made "minimal progress." Although
she had completed her psychological evaluation and parenting
classes, the mother had continued to have contact with the father
in violation of the court's order, including living with him
recently. The order found that the father had made "no progress."
He had not completed a psychological evaluation, anger management
assessment, a domestic violence assessment, or parenting classes.
He tested positive twice for cocaine and marijuana, was recommended
for treatment but did not complete treatment, and violated the
court's order by living with the mother briefly. In addition, he
did not visit with the children consistently.
Following a permanency planning hearing on 8 December 2005,
the trial court entered an order on 13 December 2005, ceasing
reunification efforts with respondent father after finding that he
had again made "no progress." The court found, as to respondent
mother, that she had made "minimal progress," but still had not
provided employment and housing information to DSS. The court
directed that the permanent plan should still be reunification with
respect to the mother. A subsequent permanency planning hearing took place on 21
September 2006. In the resulting 26 September 2006 order, the
court again found that the mother had made "minimal progress in
addressing the issues which led to placement." Specifically, the
The mother completed all of her appointments
for her psychological evaluation. The
recommendation included a referral for
depression, anger management intervention and
academic training. She is receiving anger
management therapy and medication management.
She completed a substance abuse assessment
with no recommendations. She tested negative
on September 7, 2006. She reported that she
had finished treatment for domestic violence
but provided no verification. She completed a
parenting class and demonstrated some ability
to set limits but has not maintained stable
housing. She has not maintained steady
employment. [Respondent mother] reported that
she was forced to leave her residence when it
was broken into. She relocated to South
Carolina by reporting that she was trying to
get away from [respondent father]. A home
study was requested through the Interstate
Compact with South Carolina. When her home
was evaluated, she refused to reveal who was
living in the residence with her. She is in
arrears in the amount of $146.48 on her child
support obligation. She calls the Department
appropriately. She has attended all of her
visits. She had contact with [respondent
father] as recently as September 9, 2006,
despite her reports of being afraid of him.
The mother's inability to maintain a stable
home and her continued contact with
[respondent father] makes return of the
children to her improbable within a reasonable
period of time.
(Emphasis added.) Based on that finding, the trial court ordered
that reunification efforts cease as to the mother as well as the
father. On 22 November 2006, DSS filed a motion in the cause seeking
to terminate the parental rights of respondents to both children on
the grounds that both respondents had neglected the children; both
respondents had willfully left the children in foster care for more
than 12 months without making reasonable progress under the
circumstances to correct the conditions that led to the removal of
the children; and the mother had failed, for the six months prior
to the filing of the motion, to pay a reasonable portion of the
cost of the care of the children although physically and
financially able to do so. Following a hearing on 26 January 2007
to determine whether there were grounds for termination of parental
rights, the trial court entered an order on 5 February 2007,
concluding that each of the grounds alleged in the motion existed.
The court conducted a second hearing on 2 February 2007 to
address whether it was in the best interests of the children to
terminate respondents' parental rights. In an order entered 15
February 2007, the court made findings regarding the children's
ages and time in foster care; their behavioral problems and need
for therapy; the parents' failure to complete domestic violence
treatment _ the main issue in the children's removal _ and
continued prohibited contact; the mother's failure to maintain
stable employment necessary to support the children; the father's
failure to have a stable home; and Bobby's experience with his
foster parents, including their willingness to consider adopting
Christopher. Based on those findings, the court concluded that it
was in the best interests of the children to terminate respondents'parental rights. Both respondents timely appealed from this order
and the 5 February 2007 order, with respondent mother also
appealing from the 26 September 2006 permanency planning order.
Respondents both contend that the trial court erred in failing
to dismiss the motion to terminate parental rights because it
failed to allege legally sufficient facts as required by N.C. Gen.
Stat. § 7B-1104(6) (2005). That statute requires that a motion for
termination of parental rights allege "[f]acts that are sufficient
to warrant a determination that one or more of the grounds for
terminating parental rights exist." Id.
This Court has held that
"[w]hile there is no requirement that the factual allegations be
exhaustive or extensive, they must put a party on notice as to what
acts, omissions or conditions are at issue." In re Hardesty
N.C. App. 380, 384, 563 S.E.2d 79, 82 (2002). This requirement is
not met by a "bare recitation" of the grounds set forth in the
statute for termination. In re Quevedo
, 106 N.C. App. 574, 579,
419 S.E.2d 158, 160, appeal dismissed
, 332 N.C. 483, 424 S.E.2d 397
(1992). Respondents contend that reversal of the trial court's
termination of parental rights orders is warranted under Hardesty
In both Hardesty
, however, the parent had filed a
pretrial motion to dismiss, arguing that the allegations of the
petition were insufficient. Respondents, in this case, did not
make any such motion. Instead, respondents waited until trial when
they moved to dismiss at the close of petitioner's evidence and atthe close of all the evidence. This Court has recently confirmed
that, like all other civil cases, in a termination of parental
rights proceeding, "a Rule 12(b)(6) motion may not be made for the
first time on appeal." In re H.L.A.D.
, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___, 646
S.E.2d 425, 434 (2007).
Because respondents did not make a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss prior to the hearing, they cannot challenge the sufficiency
of the motion's allegations for the first time on appeal. Their
motions in the course of the hearing _ addressing the sufficiency
of the evidence and not the pleadings _ were not adequate to
preserve the issue for review. See id.
(holding that respondent
failed to properly preserve for appeal the issue of sufficiency of
allegations of motion to terminate parental rights when respondent
made motion to dismiss after presentation of petitioner's evidence
and at close of all the evidence, but failed to make Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss). Consequently, this assignment of error is
Respondent mother next contends that the trial court erred in
ceasing reunification efforts as to her in its 26 September 2006
permanency planning order because, according to respondent mother,
the evidence and the findings of fact were insufficient to
establish that reunification efforts were futile. As the basis for
appellate review, she cites N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1001(a)(5)(a)
(2005), which provides that this Court will allow a parent to bring
an appeal from an order to cease reunification together with anappeal from an order terminating parental rights under specified
circumstances. This provision was the result of amendments to the
statute in 2005, applying to petitions or actions filed on or after
1 October 2005. 2005 N.C. Sess. Laws ch. 398 § 10. Even assuming,
without deciding, that this provision applies to this action, we
find respondent mother's contention unpersuasive.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-507(b) (2005) permits a trial court to
direct that reunification efforts cease "if the court makes written
findings of fact" that "[s]uch 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[.]"
Respondent mother argues that the trial court's findings of fact in
this case are insufficient because no finding specifically recites
the standard in § 7B-507(b).
Respondent mother points to In re Weiler
, 158 N.C. App. 473,
581 S.E.2d 134 (2003). In Weiler
, this Court reversed a permanency
planning order when the court's finding of fact that termination of
the mother's parental rights was the best plan to achieve a safe,
permanent home for the children was actually a conclusion of law.
at 478, 581 S.E.2d at 137. The only other finding of fact that
arguably related to the requirements for cessation of reunification
efforts addressed only behaviors of the mother without any finding
that the behaviors were inconsistent with the juveniles' health,
safety, and need for a permanent home. Id.
at 479, 581 S.E.2d at
137. In this case, however, the trial court's findings of fact more
directly related to the requirements of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-
507(b). The trial court based its conclusion that reasonable
efforts to reunify should cease on its finding that respondent
mother had made "minimal progress in addressing the issues which
led to placement." Specifically, although the court noted that
respondent mother had complied with some of the court's
requirements, it found she had not maintained stable housing or
steady employment, had not verified that she had completed domestic
violence training, and had continued having contact with respondent
father. The court further found that "DSS has made reasonable
efforts to implement the permanent plan for the juveniles," which
had been reunification with respondent mother, but nonetheless
"[t]he mother's inability to maintain a stable home and her
continued contact with [respondent father] makes return of the
children to her improbable within a reasonable period of time."
Finally, in a conclusion of law more properly viewed as both a
conclusion of law and a finding of fact, the trial court found that
"[r]eturn of the juveniles . . . to the home would be contrary to
their best interest, health, safety and welfare." See Gainey v.
N.C. Dep't of Justice
, 121 N.C. App. 253, 257 n.1, 465 S.E.2d 36,
40 n.1 (1996) ("Although denominated as a conclusion of law, we
treat this conclusion as a finding of fact because its
determination does not involve the application of legal
principles."). The trial court thus specifically found that (1) return of the
children to their mother would be contrary to their health, safety,
and welfare, and (2) despite DSS' prior reunification efforts,
return of the children to the mother was improbable within a
reasonable time. While findings of fact more specifically
paralleling § 7B-507(b) would be preferable, we hold that the trial
court's findings of fact are sufficient to constitute a finding
that reunification efforts "would be inconsistent with the
juvenile's health, safety, and need for a safe, permanent home
within a reasonable period of time." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-
507(b)(1). Nothing in Weiler
requires that a trial court parrot
the language of § 7B-507(b).
The mother also argues that the order was in error because
respondent mother had made some progress and complied with some of
the requirements, citing In re Eckard
, 148 N.C. App. 541, 559
S.E.2d 233, disc. review denied
, 356 N.C. 163, 568 S.E.2d 192
(2002). In Eckard
, the trial court had ordered that reunification
efforts cease after only eight months. This Court then reversed
the trial court based on the following undisputed evidence:
(1) the injuries to Patricia occurred while
she was in the custody and care of another;
(2) respondent mother terminated her
relationship with the other person and has
established and maintained her own dwelling;
(3) despite respondent mother's low I.Q., she
has no severe mental health issues that would
interfere with her ability to parent; (4)
respondent mother understands that her poor
choices led to the abuse of the child and that
the solution is to proceed more slowly before
advancing to a live-in relationship; (5)
respondent mother has grown and matured to a
level as to not be a danger to Patricia; (6)respondent mother continues to remain
employed, pay child support, and visit her
child regularly; (7) respondent mother has
done everything requested by DSS, is following
her case plan, and is exceeding minimal
standards of care; (8) respondent mother
accepts responsibility on her own part for not
protecting Patricia; and (9) DSS recommends
that the permanent plan for Patricia be
reunification with respondent mother.
at 545, 559 S.E.2d at 235. Thus, in Eckard
, the respondent
mother had, in eight months, made significant progress on the
issues leading to a loss of custody, such that DSS was still
In contrast, the evidence in this case demonstrates, as the
trial court found, that after 18 months, respondent mother had made
little progress with respect to the critical issues that had
resulted in her loss of custody of the children _ including
domestic violence, housing, and employment. Respondent mother does
not dispute those findings. The fact that she made some progress
in other less important areas does not negate her lack of progress
in the key areas. Indeed, respondent mother's failure in these
areas led both DSS and the guardian ad litem to urge that
reunification efforts cease, another factor distinguishing this
case from Eckard
. We, therefore, affirm the trial court's
permanency planning order.
Respondent mother next argues that the trial court erred in
failing to appoint her a guardian ad litem under N.C. Gen. Stat. §
7B-1101.1 (2005). That statute provides: "On motion of any party
or on the court's own motion, the court may appoint a guardian adlitem for a parent if the court determines that there is a
reasonable basis to believe that the parent is incompetent or has
diminished capacity and cannot adequately act in his or her own
interest." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1101.1(c).
Although referring to this statute, respondent mother then
cites cases construing the predecessor statute, N.C. Gen. Stat. §
7B-1101 (2003), the guardian ad litem portion of which was repealed
in 2005 N.C. Sess. Laws ch. 398 § 14. Neither respondent mother
nor DSS address which statute should apply to this case. Under
either standard, however, we hold the trial court did not err in
failing to appoint a guardian ad litem.
Respondent mother points (1) to the fact that a psychological
report indicated she has a full-scale I.Q. of 75 and (2) argues
further, without citing any authority, that "[t]he existence of the
psychological report should have triggered at the least a hearing
to determine whether [respondent mother] could proceed without a
guardian ad litem." She acknowledges that she did not ask the
trial court for appointment of a guardian ad litem and that the
motion to terminate her parental rights did not contain any
allegations that she was incapable of parenting her children due to
a mental or other condition.
As this Court has stressed
, the trial court is not required to
appoint a guardian ad litem in every case in which cognitive
limitations or substance abuse is alleged to exist. In re J.A.A.
175 N.C. App. 66, 71, 623 S.E.2d 45, 49 (2005). Under the former
law, when no allegation of dependency appeared in the petition ormotion to terminate parental rights and the parent did not move for
appointment of a guardian ad litem, the question became whether
appointment was required under N.C.R. Civ. P. 17. See J.A.A.
N.C. App. at 72, 623 S.E.2d at 49 ("A trial judge has a duty to
properly inquire into the competency of a litigant in a civil trial
or proceeding when circumstances are brought to the judge's
attention, which raise a substantial question as to whether the
litigant is non compos mentis
Since psychological reports are routinely sought in
termination of parental rights and abuse, neglect, and dependency
cases, the fact that a report exists _ without anything more _
cannot mandate a hearing to decide whether a guardian ad litem
should be appointed for a parent. If we were to adopt respondent
mother's argument, a hearing would have to be held even if the
psychological report reflected no issues of civil incompetency, any
inability to make decisions in the pending litigation, or
incapacity to parent.
Further, respondent mother offers no explanation as to why her
I.Q., standing alone, required appointment of a guardian ad litem.
Indeed, review of respondent mother's psychological report, which
specifically discussed respondent mother's I.Q., states that she is
in fact capable of parenting and contains no indication that a
guardian ad litem needed to be appointed. Further, the proceedings
prior to the filing of the motion for termination of parental
rights focused on domestic violence issues and the mother's
continued contact with her abusive husband rather than on anyintellectual limitations on her ability to parent. See In re
, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___, 635 S.E.2d 916, 917 (2006) (holding
that when mental illness of parent is not substantially relied upon
by trial court in its decision to terminate parental rights, trial
court is not required to appoint a guardian ad litem for the
parent). Accordingly, we hold that respondent mother has failed to
demonstrate that the trial court was obligated to appoint a
guardian ad litem for her.
Respondent mother next contends that the trial court lacked
subject matter jurisdiction because the motion to terminate
parental rights did not attach an order granting DSS custody of
Christopher and Bobby. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1104(5) requires that
a motion to terminate include "[t]he name and address of any person
or agency to whom custody of the juvenile has been given by a court
of this or any other state; and a copy of the custody order shall
be attached to the petition or motion."
This Court has held, however, that failure to attach a custody
order to a motion or petition for termination of parental rights
does not deprive the trial court of subject matter jurisdiction if
the record before the trial court "'includes a copy of an order, in
effect when the petition is filed, that awards DSS custody of the
child.'" In re D.J.G.
, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___, 643 S.E.2d 672, 673
(2007) (quoting In re T.B.
, 177 N.C. App. 790, 793, 629 S.E.2d 895,
897 (2006)). Here, the trial court took judicial notice of all the
orders contained in Christopher's and Bobby's files. Those filescontained orders still in effect granting DSS custody of the
Further, the motion to terminate parental rights attached
affidavits for each child stating that DSS had custody of that
child, and the parties never disputed that DSS had custody.
Respondent mother has, therefore, failed to establish that the
trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. See also In re
, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___, 640 S.E.2d 439, 444 (2007) (holding
that the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction, despite
failure to attach custody order, when motion referred to juvenile
file and custody order in effect when motion was filed, there was
no dispute over who had custody, and trial court took judicial
notice of underlying case files that included custody order).
Accordingly, this assignment of error is overruled.
Respondent mother further contends that the trial court erred
by making certain findings of fact and concluding that grounds to
terminate her parental rights existed. A court may terminate
parental rights upon a showing that one of the specified grounds
for termination exists as set out in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111.
The trial court in this case reached the following conclusions
regarding whether grounds for termination of parental rights
3. That the Department has shown by
clear, cogent and convincing evidence that
that [sic] the Respondents have neglected the
children within the meaning of N.C.G.S. §7B-
101(15) and there is a probability of the
repetition of neglect in the future and thatthe Respondents have willfully left the
children in foster care for more than twelve
months without showing to the Court that
reasonable progress has been made in
correcting the issues which led to placement.
4. That the Department has shown by
clear, cogent and convincing evidence that
[respondent mother] has for a continuous
period of six months next preceding the filing
of the motion willfully failed to pay a
reasonable portion of the cost of care for the
juvenile although physically and financially
able to do so.
"On appeal, the standard of review from a trial court's decision in
a parental termination case is whether there existed clear, cogent,
and convincing evidence of the existence of grounds to terminate
respondent's parental rights." In re Oghenekevebe
, 123 N.C. App.
434, 439, 473 S.E.2d 393, 398 (1996). The trial court's findings
of fact and conclusions of law are binding on appeal if there is
competent evidence to support them. Id.
Although respondent mother assigned error to both conclusions
of law 3 and 4, she argues in her brief only that the trial court
erred in concluding that the grounds of neglect and failure to pay
child support existed. She did not specifically address the trial
court's conclusion that she had failed to make reasonable progress
in correcting the conditions that led to removal of the children
from her custody, the ground set forth in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-
1111(a)(2). This omission is fatal. As this Court explained in
The trial court can terminate a
respondent's parental rights upon the finding
of one of the grounds enumerated in N.C. Gen.
Stat. § 7B-1111(a). . . . In the instant
case, the trial court cited three grounds forterminating respondent's parental rights.
Respondent only assigned as error one of those
grounds. "The appellant must assign error to
each conclusion it believes is not supported
by the evidence. N.C.R. App. P. 10. Failure
to do so constitutes an acceptance of the
conclusion and a waiver of the right to
challenge said conclusion as unsupported by
the facts." Fran's Pecans, Inc. v. Greene
134 N.C. App. 110, 112, 516 S.E.2d 647, 649
(1999). Since respondent does not contest the
other two grounds, they are binding on appeal.
As only one ground is necessary to support the
termination, we need not address whether
evidence existed to support termination based
on N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(3).
175 N.C. App. at 74, 623 S.E.2d at 50. Because respondent mother
has not challenged one of the three grounds for termination, we are
required to affirm the trial court's order.
Even if the third ground _ willful failure to make reasonable
progress _ were properly before us, we would still affirm on the
basis of that ground. The trial court identified domestic violence
as the main reason that the children were placed in the custody of
DSS. While respondent mother contends that the evidence at the
hearing did not support that finding, it is supported by the
initial consent adjudication, which incorporated by reference the
domestic violence allegations of the juvenile petition. That same
consent order also set forth specific requirements that the mother
needed to meet in order to address the domestic violence concerns
reflected in the initial adjudication.
With respect to the requirements relating to domestic
violence, the trial court found that respondent mother had not
completed domestic violence counseling and was still maintainingregular contact with her husband in violation of the consent order.
As for the continued contact, the court specifically found:
[Respondent parents] admitted at this hearing
that they see each other several times a week
and frequently go places together. On
December 6, 2006, [respondent mother] called
[respondent father] from the visitation room
while she was visiting with the children and
she allowed [Bobby] to speak to him. When
confronted, she told the social worker that
she did not see [respondent father] except on
court dates and at the Department. As an
explanation as to why his car is always at
[respondent mother's] residence, [respondent
father] maintains that the car is in his name
but belongs to [respondent mother's] roommate.
[Respondent mother] testified that she does
not see how remaining away from [respondent
father] has anything to do with her ability to
get her children back.
The only aspect of these findings of fact that respondent
mother specifically challenges is the finding that she failed to
complete her domestic violence counseling. That finding stated:
[Respondent mother] has not completed her
domestic violence counseling. Yet, she had
only six sessions to complete. She did not
attend her first session in February 2006.
She cancelled her session on March 22, 2006
and failed to show for her March 29, 2006
session. She did not show for her appointment
on June 7, 2006. At the time this motion in
the cause was filed, she had two more
sessions. But she did not show for her
appointment on December 27, 2006.
Respondent mother does not dispute that she did not attend the
February 2006, 22 March 2006, 29 March 2006, and 7 June 2006
sessions. Her own testimony established that she was supposed to
attend six sessions, that at the time of her testimony she had
attended only five sessions, and that she cancelled the 27 December
2006 session. In determining whether respondent mother willfully failed to
make reasonable progress, the trial court was entitled to consider
that over a two-year period, respondent mother waited a year to
start the counseling, that she only had a small number of sessions
to attend, and that she still did not complete them prior to the
hearing even though the final required session had been scheduled
prior to the hearing date. Given that respondent mother does not
specifically challenge any aspect of the finding regarding her
regular continued contact with respondent father, the trial court
could reasonably conclude that respondent mother willfully left the
children in foster care for more than 12 months without showing
that reasonable progress under the circumstances had been made in
addressing the domestic violence issues. The lack of progress is
demonstrated particularly, as the trial court found, by respondent
mother's testimony, after two years of work with DSS and multiple
sessions of domestic violence counseling, "that she does not see
how remaining away from [respondent father] has anything to do with
her ability to get her children back."
In sum, even if respondent mother had properly contended that
grounds did not exist under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(2), we
would still hold that the trial court's findings of fact relating
to that ground are supported by the evidence and that those
findings support the conclusion that grounds existed under § 7B-
1111(a)(2) to terminate respondent mother's parental rights. We,
therefore, need not address respondent mother's remaining argumentsregarding the findings of fact and conclusions of law unrelated to
Respondent father's only other assignment of error is that the
trial court erred in concluding that it was in the best interests
of the children to terminate his parental rights. He does not
challenge the grounds for termination of parental rights found to
exist by the trial court, including neglect and a failure to make
reasonable progress to correct the conditions that led to removal
of the children from his custody. Once statutory grounds for
termination have been established, the trial court must "determine
whether terminating the parent's rights is in the juvenile's best
interest." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1110(a) (2005). This Court will
not reverse a trial court's decision to terminate parental rights
unless we find it to be an abuse of discretion. In re Brim
N.C. App. 733, 745, 535 S.E.2d 367, 374 (2000).
In making this argument, respondent father does not
specifically challenge any of the trial court's findings of fact in
its dispositional order. Instead, he argues that "[t]he evidence
presented in the above Statement of Facts showed that [respondent
father] was bonded with his children and fought in the best way
that he knew how to remain a part of their lives." Respondent
father's failure, however, to assign error to the findings of fact
renders them binding on appeal, and the sole question before us is
whether those findings of fact support the trial court's decisionthat termination was in the children's best interests. Koufman v.
, 330 N.C. 93, 97, 408 S.E.2d 729, 731 (1991).
The court found that both children had behavioral issues
requiring therapy, and Christopher was in a therapeutic foster
home. According to the trial court, while the children were bonded
with their parents and their parents love them, the children
separated easily from their parents at the end of visitation. The
court stressed that, after two years, the children needed
permanence, yet the parents had not completed domestic violence
treatment, they had violated a court order prohibiting the parents
to have contact, and respondent father did not yet have a stable
home. The court further found that "[e]ven if the parties
addressed their domestic violence issues in the near future it
would take additional time to determine whether treatment was
successful for each of them."
Respondent father argues, however, that termination was not
warranted because the children had not yet been placed in permanent
homes because of their special needs. According to respondent
father, "[b]y terminating the parental rights of the parents
without first being able to establish a future home with a family
for the children[, the court] left them in the untenable position
of legal orphans." Respondent father cites no authority, however,
requiring that an adoptive home be identified before rights are
terminated. Further, the court found, contrary to respondent
father's suggestion regarding the children's special needs, that
"[b]oth children could be placed in an adoptive home despite theirspecial needs" and that "[t]ermination of their parents' rights
would allow the children to move forward to a more predictable
(See footnote 2)
When we consider the trial court's findings regarding
respondent father's lack of progress in addressing domestic
violence issues and the need for stable housing over a two-year
period in conjunction with its findings regarding the children's
special needs, the trial court's decision to terminate respondent
father's parental rights does not appear to be an abuse of
discretion. While respondent father has presented an argument that
could justify not terminating his parental rights, he has presented
no persuasive argument that the trial court's decision otherwise
was manifestly unreasonable.
Judges CALABRIA and STEPHENS concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).