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In re Huber

Filed: June 1, 1982.

IN RE: BRIDGET COLLEEN HUBER, JUVENILE


Appeal by respondent mother from Bennett, Lanning and Jones, Judges. Orders filed 11 and 17 February 1981, 6 and 18 March 1981, 8 and 14 April 1981, and 10 June 1981 in District Court, Mecklenburg County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 30 March 1982.

Martin (Harry C.), Judge. Judges Martin (Robert M.) and Whichard concur.

Martin

Kathy Huber Hazelwood, mother of Bridget Colleen Huber, raises three basic arguments upon appeal. She first contends that the definition of a "neglected juvenile" as contained in N.C.G.S. 7A-517(21) is unconstitutional on its face and as applied to the facts of this case. We do not agree.

The analysis of the law by Judge Vaughn in In re Biggers, 50 N.C. App. 332, 274 S.E.2d 236 (1981), is applicable. In Biggers, the Court was faced with a constitutional challenge to the definition of "neglected child" within the meaning of N.C.G.S. 7A-289.32(2). That statute refers to N.C.G.S. 7A-278.4 (repealed effective 1 January 1980) for the definition of "neglected child." The definitions in N.C.G.S. 7A-278.4 and 7A-517(21) are substantially identical. In Biggers, we find:

Our Supreme Court has enunciated the principles of the vagueness doctrine as follows:

A statute which either forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application violates the first essential of due process of law. . . . Even so, impossible standards of statutory clarity are not required by the constitution. When the language of a statute provides adequate warning as to the conduct it condemns and prescribes boundaries sufficiently distinct for judges and juries to interpret and administer it uniformly, constitutional requirements are fully met. United States v. Petrillo, 332 U.S. 1, 91 L. Ed. 1877, 67 S. Ct. 1538.

In re Burrus, 275 N.C. 517, 531, 169 S.E.2d 879, 888, (1969), aff'd, 403 U.S. 528, 91 S. Ct. 1976 (1971)(citations omitted). A statute msut be examined in light of the circumstances in each case, and respondent has the burden of showing that the statute provides inadequate warning as to the conduct it governs or is incapable of uniform judicial administration. State v. Covington, 34 N.C. App. 457, 238 S.E.2d 794, review denied, 294 N.C. 184, 241 S.E.2d 519 (1977) . . . .

Our Court has not found it difficult to give a precise meaning to this definition of a neglected child in particular cases by analyzing the factual circumstances before it and weighing the compelling interests of the State with those of the parents and child. In re Cusson, 43 N.C. App. 333, 258 S.E.2d 858 (1979); In McMillan, 30 N.C. App. 235, 226 S.E.2d 693 (1976). See also In re Yow, 40 N.C. App. 688, 253 S.E.2d 647, review denied, 297 N.C. 610, 257 S.E.2d 223 (1979). Viewed in this light, G.S. 7A-278(4) are given a precise and understandable meaning by the normative standards imposed upon parents by our society, and parents are, therefore, given sufficient notice of the types of conduct that constitute child neglect in this State. See 17 Ariz. L. Rev. 1055, 1070 (1975).

50 N.C. App. at 340-41, 274 S.E.2d at 241-42. We hold the statutory definition is not unconstitutional by reason of vagueness. See also In re Clark, 303 N.C. 592, 281 S.E.2d 47 (1981).

Nor does it violate constitutional safeguards as to equal protection. Again, Biggers is authority to overcome respondent's challenge on this ground. The classification of neglected children by the statute is founded upon reasonable distinctions, affects all persons simlarly situated without discrimination, and has a reasonable relation to the public peace, welfare and safety. In re Moore, 289 N.C. 95, 221 S.E.2d 307 (1976).

There is substantial competent evidence in the record to support the conclusion of the court that Bridget was a neglected child or juvenile within the meaning of N.C.G.S. 7A-517(21). The statute provides that if a child is not provided necessary medical care, it is neglected. All the evidence shows that Bridget has a severe speech defect which can be treated by medical or other remedial care. She also has a hearing defect. Facilities are available in Mecklenburg County for the treatment and care of Bridget without expense to her or her mother. Although the Department of Social Services has made efforts to have Bridget examined, evaluated and treated at these facilities, her mother refuses to allow her daughter to receive this necessary medical and remedial care. It is not the presence of the defects in the child that cause her to be neglected. It is the failure of the mother to allow Bridget to receive necessary medical and remedial care and treatment. Without treatment Bridget will suffer serious and permanent harm. She will not be educated to her full potential; she will suffer emotionally by being unable to communicate with other persons; she will probably be unable to read. All of these problems may be overcome with proper treatment and therapy. Yet, Bridget's mother refuses to permit her to receive this opportunity to progress toward her full development. Certainly the child is neglected. To deprive a child of the opportunity for normal growth and development is perhaps the greatest neglect a parent can impose upon a child. The ...


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