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An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure.

NO. COA07-574

NORTH CAROLINA COURT OF APPEALS

Filed: 4 December 2007

IN THE MATTER OF:

    D.M.L.                        Wayne County
    R.E.L.                        Nos. 04 JT 75-76
    

    Appeal by respondent from orders entered 5 March 2007 by Judge David B. Brantley in Wayne County District Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 5 November 2007.

    E.B. Borden Parker for petitioner-appellee Wayne County Department of Social Services.

    Jeremy B. Smith for appellee Guardian Ad Litem.

    Janet K. Ledbetter for respondent-appellant.


    ELMORE, Judge.

    Respondent-mother appeals from orders terminating her parental rights to children, D.M.L. and R.E.L. For the following reasons, we affirm.
    In April of 2004, the Wayne County Department of Social Services (DSS) filed a juvenile petition alleging that D.M.L. and R.E.L. were neglected based upon reports that respondent-mother and her live-in boyfriend were dealing drugs out of the home. The trial court adjudicated the children neglected on 25 June 2004. Respondent-mother was subsequently arrested for and pled guilty to possession of precursor chemicals to manufacture methamphetamine. After conducting permanency planning hearings, the trial courtentered permanency planning orders on 7 April 2006 and concluded that the permanent plan of the juveniles be changed to adoption.
    On 11 July 2006, DSS filed petitions to terminate the parental rights of respondent-mother as to D.M.L. and R.E.L. on the grounds of neglect and abandonment. DSS also sought to terminate the parental rights of the father of D.M.L. and R.E.L. By orders entered 5 March 2007, the trial court terminated the parental rights of respondent-mother and the father. Respondent-mother appeals.
    Respondent-mother first contends that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enter orders terminating her parental rights because the termination petition did not comply with N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1104(6). We disagree.
    Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1104(6), a proper petition for termination of parental rights must set forth “[f]acts that are sufficient to warrant a determination that one or more of the grounds for terminating parental rights exist.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1104(6) (2005). A “petitioner's bare recitation . . . of the alleged statutory grounds for termination does not comply with the requirement in [§ 7B-1104(6)].” In re Quevedo, 106 N.C. App. 574, 579, 419 S.E.2d 158, 160 (1992). “While 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, 150 N.C. App. 380, 384, 563 S.E.2d 79, 82 (2002). Further, compliance with the statutory requirements to allege sufficient facts pursuant to Section 7B-1104(6) may be metby attached and incorporated orders. See Quevedo, 106 N.C. App. at 579, 419 S.E.2d at 160.
    Here, the petitions stated the grounds on which termination was sought, neglect and abandonment, and included the permanency planning orders entered in the cases. The attached incorporated orders contained findings of fact regarding respondent-mother's drug abuse and incarceration. Thus, sufficient allegations were made in the petition to comply with N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1104(6). The corresponding assignments of error are overruled.
    Respondent-mother next contends that the trial court erred by not holding the special hearing required by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1108(b). We disagree.
    N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1108(b) requires that the trial court conduct a “special hearing . . . to determine the issues raised by the petition and answer” when a respondent denies via answer any material allegation contained within a petition to terminate parental rights. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1108(b) (2005). We find instructive the case of In re B.D., 174 N.C. App. 234, 620 S.E.2d 913 (2005), disc. review denied, 360 N.C. 289, 628 S.E.2d 245 (2006). In In re B.D., the respondents argued on appeal that the trial court erred by holding the special hearing required by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1108(b) immediately prior to commencement of the termination hearing instead of notifying them of the special hearing ten days prior to its commencement. This Court concluded that the respondents were not prejudiced by holding the special hearing immediately prior to the termination hearing becauserespondents had denied all material allegations of the petition, which indicated that each ground for termination was in dispute and no further issues remained to be delineated by the trial court at the special hearing. Id. at 240, 620 S.E.2d at 917.
    Similarly, respondent-mother here denied all material allegations of the petition and no further issues remained for the trial court to dispose of at the special hearing. We, therefore, cannot say that the trial court's failure to conduct a special hearing prejudiced respondent-mother. Accordingly, respondent- mothers's second argument is overruled.
    Respondent-mother next challenges the trial court's determination that grounds existed to terminate her parental rights.     Termination of parental rights involves a two-stage process. In re Blackburn, 142 N.C. App. 607, 610, 543 S.E.2d 906, 908 (2001) (citation omitted). “In the adjudicatory stage, the petitioner has the burden of establishing by clear and convincing evidence that at least one of the statutory grounds listed in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111 exists.” In re Anderson, 151 N.C. App. 94, 97, 564 S.E.2d 599, 602 (2002) (citation omitted). “If the trial court determines that grounds for termination exist, it proceeds to the dispositional stage, and must consider whether terminating parental rights is in the best interests of the child.” Id. at 98, 564 S.E.2d at 602 (citation omitted). “We review the trial court's decision to terminate parental rights for abuse of discretion standard.” Id. (citations omitted).    Respondent-mother asserts the trial court erred by: (1) entering termination orders without identifying the specific statutory ground for termination under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a); and (2) failing to make findings based upon clear and convincing evidence that would support a conclusion that she neglected her children under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(1).
    To support its decision to terminate respondent-mother's parental rights, the trial court made the following findings of fact as to respondent-mother as to R.E.L:
        9. That the initial Petition in this matter was filed on April 1, 2004, alleging that the juvenile was a neglected juvenile. The juvenile was living with the mother at that time.

        10. That the Court, on June 25, 2004, found the juvenile to be a neglected juvenile within the meaning of the North Carolina General Statutes.

        11. That in finding neglect, the Court found that at the time of the filing of the Petition, the following facts existed:

        a. The home was in disarray.

        b. The mother was living on an inheritance and child support and was providing a home for a live-in boyfriend . . . who was unemployed until sometime in June, 2004.

        c. At the time, the mother had criminal convictions, including misdemeanor larceny, simple assault, driving while license revoked and DWI.

        d. [T]he live-in boyfriend of the mother, had been living with the mother and the juvenile for 10 months and prior to that time had lived with the previous female owners of the home.

        e. [The live-in boyfriend] had a number of convictions including, breaking and entering,possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell, and driving while license was revoked.

        f. [The live-in boyfriend] had recent positive drug test for marijuana.

        g. The marijuana was purchased in a mobile home park where the mother, [her live-in boyfriend] and the juvenile resided and the methemphetamine was purchased near or in the mobile home park.

        h. The juvenile had lice in his hair when he was placed in the custody of the Department of Social Services in March, 2004.

        12. That when the juvenile was originally removed from the mother, he had missed more than 20 days of school.

        13. That as set out below, the father had previously abused the juvenile. It was recommended that the juvenile have counseling and at the time of the juvenile being removed from the home of the mother, the juvenile had not had counseling for approximately one and one half years, although the mother of the juvenile was supporting a live-in boyfriend.

        14. That the Court placed the juvenile in the custody of Patrick and Debbie Cansler, brother and sister-in-law of the respondent mother.

        15. That on June 25, 2004, the Court ordered the mother, Rita L., to complete a substance abuse evaluation and to follow the recommendations of the evaluator, be subject to random drug screens, complete parenting classes and demonstrate skills learned and to have a complete psychological evaluation and to follow the recommendations of the evaluator.

        16. That in September, 2004, the Court found that the mother had separated from [her live- in boyfriend], but had no drivers license nor automobile.

        17. That the Court further found that the mother had lost her job, but was seeking employment.
        18. That in September, 2004, the Court found that the mother, Rita L., had not had a drug test since the last Court date in June, 2004, the mother had an appointment for a psychological evaluation and a substance abuse evaluation and that she had scheduled parenting classes for October, 2004.

        19. That from June, 2004, through September, 2004, the mother had not complied with the Order of the Court made on June 25, 2004.

        20. That in September, 2004, the Court again ordered the mother, Rita L., to complete a substance abuse evaluation and to follow the recommendations of the mental health professional, to complete parenting classes and demonstrate skills learned and to have a complete psychological evaluation and follow the recommendations.

        21. That on December 16, 2004, the Court found that [Rita L.], mother of the juvenile, was in jail, having been arrested for operating a methamphetamine house.

        22. That the mother of the juvenile is incarcerated because of a guilty plea to two counts of possession of precursor chemicals. Precursor chemicals are used to manufacture methamphetamine.

        * * *

        24. That the earliest release date for the mother is May 30, 2008.

        25. That the mother of the juvenile testified that she has received parenting skills courses from DOC and has taken the Step Program and a substance abuse program at Wake Tech and DART at DOC. None of these programs were instituted or taken by the mother until she was confined to the Department of Correction after her conviction.

        26. That the mother stated to the Court that when she gets out of prison, she expects to get a job without any problem, and is sure that there are a lot of job opportunities because “there is work everywhere”. Themother did not maintain employment prior to being incarcerated.

        27. That the history of this mother with convictions prior to the Department of Social Services being involved in the case and the convictions while the initial case was ongoing in Juvenile Court and her failure to comply with Orders of the Court until confined to the Department of Correction and her failure to maintain employment leads this Court to believe that there is a likelihood that the mother will again neglect the juvenile.

        * * *

        56. That the mother of the juvenile has been sending letters to the juvenile from prison.

        57. That the letters are now being given to the counselor of the juvenile to determine whether the letter should be given to the juvenile.

        * * *

        59. That the mother also stated that she has completed some self enrichment classes.

        60. That the mother of the juvenile worked in the license plant at DOC earning $0.26 an hour and used that money for herself. She never paid any money to the Wayne County Department of Social Services for the use and benefit of the juvenile.

        61. That the mother testified that she is a changed person and now attends church and spends time in school. The mother is 33 years old. The last time that the mother used methamphetamine was in late 2004, prior to her current incarceration.

        62. That the mother is currently taking a history course through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

        63. That the mother is participating in Bible studies.
        64. That the mother of the juvenile has been infraction free for the last year in DOC, but previously had 4 infractions.

* * *

        67. That the mother cannot care for the juvenile at least until May, 2008.

Based on these findings, the trial court concluded “[t]hat the grounds exist to terminate the parental rights of the parents of this juvenile as set out above.” The trial court made the same findings and conclusion as to D.M.L. in a separate order.
     Although respondent-mother is correct that the trial court did not delineate the specific grounds for termination in parental rights cases, the trial court's findings establish grounds for termination under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(1), neglect. The trial court specifically found that it “believe[d] that there is a likelihood that the mother will again neglect the juvenile.” (Emphasis added). We conclude that any potential error is harmless. See In re Bluebird, 105 N.C. App. 42, 51, 411 S.E.2d 820, 825 (1992) (holding, in a case in which the trial court failed to delineate the specific grounds for termination, which was “obviously an error of draftmanship,” that although “[t]he more efficient and prudent practice for trial courts is to delineate the specific grounds for termination, the error was harmless “because the evidence strongly supports the trial court's conclusion”).
    We further conclude that sufficient grounds existed to terminate respondent-mother's parental rights based upon a finding that the minor children were neglected within the meaning of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(15). A trial court may terminate parentalrights upon a finding that “[t]he parent has . . . neglected the juvenile. The juvenile shall be deemed to be . . . neglected if the court finds the juvenile to be . . . a neglected juvenile within the meaning of G.S. 7B-101.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(1) (2005). Section 7B-101(15) defines “neglected juvenile” as
        A juvenile 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 is not provided necessary medical care; or who is not provided necessary remedial care; or who lives in an environment injurious to the juvenile's welfare; or who has been placed for care or adoption in violation of law . . . .

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(15) (2005). “To prove neglect in a termination case, there must be clear and convincing evidence[:]” that (1) the juvenile is neglected within the meaning of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(15), and (2) “the juvenile has sustained some physical, mental, or emotional impairment . . . or [there is] a substantial risk of such impairment as a consequence” of the neglect. In re Reyes, 136 N.C. App. 812, 814, 526 S.E.2d 499, 501 (2000) (citation and quotations omitted, alteration in original).
    “A finding of neglect sufficient to terminate parental rights must be based on evidence showing neglect at the time of the termination proceeding.” In re Young, 346 N.C. 244, 248, 485 S.E.2d 612, 615 (1997) (citation omitted). “Termination of parental rights for neglect may not be based solely on past conditions which no longer exist.” Id. (citation omitted). “[A] prior adjudication of neglect may be admitted and considered by the trial court inruling upon a later petition to terminate parental rights on the ground of neglect.” In re Ballard, 311 N.C. 708, 713-14, 319 S.E.2d 227, 231 (1984).
    If the child has been removed from the parents' custody before the termination hearing, and the petitioner presents evidence of prior neglect, including an adjudication of such neglect, then “[t]he trial court must also consider any evidence of changed conditions in light of the evidence of prior neglect and the probability of a repetition of neglect.” Ballard, 311 N.C. at 715, 319 S.E.2d at 232. Thus,
        [where] there is no evidence of neglect at the time of the termination proceeding . . . parental rights may nonetheless be terminated if there is a showing of a past adjudication of neglect and the trial court finds by clear and convincing evidence a probability of repetition of neglect if the juvenile were returned to [his or] her parents.

In re Reyes, 136 N.C. App. at 815, 526 S.E.2d at 501.
    Respondent-mother assigns error to the above findings, but only argues in her brief the sufficiency of finding number 27. Findings of fact not assigned as error or argued on appeal are deemed to be supported by sufficient evidence, and are binding on appeal. N.C.R. App. P. 28(b)(6) (2007); See also In re P.M., 169 N.C. App. 423, 424, 610 S.E.2d 403, 404-05 (2005) (concluding that respondent had abandoned factual assignments of error when she “failed to specifically argue in her brief that they were unsupported by evidence”). A review of the record and transcript shows that each of the trial court's findings is based upon competent evidence, including orders entered in the case andtestimony from DSS social worker s and respondent-mother. The prior adjudication established the existence of prior neglect. Respondent mother, however takes issue with the trial court's finding that there was the probability of a repetition of neglect. She asserts that the trial court ignored her significant progress.
     Here, the trial court made findings that respondent-mother, while incarcerated, had attended and completed parenting classes and substance abuse classes. The trial court found, however, that respondent-mother did not comply with any court orders prior to her incarceration, despite her children being placed with DSS. Respondent-mother's failure to obtain appropriate employment and her lack of diligence in pursuing mental health and drug treatment after her children were placed with DSS support the court's determination that there was a probability that neglect would be repeated in the future.
    The trial court thus properly considered both evidence of past neglect by respondent mother, as well as evidence of conditions since that time showing a likelihood of neglect in the future. We, therefore, hold that the trial court's findings of fact were based on clear, cogent, and convincing evidence. We further hold that these findings support the court's conclusion that grounds justifying termination existed under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111 (a)(1). 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). Accordingly, the trial court's orders terminating respondent- mother's rights are affirmed.
    Affirmed.
    Judges WYNN and STROUD concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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