in the Court of Appeals 20 February 2017
by respondent from orders entered 2 May 2016 by Judge David
Strickland in Mecklenburg County No. 14 JA 420 District
Associate Attorney Christopher C. Peace for
petitioner-appellee Mecklenburg County Department of Social
Services, Youth and Family Services.
L. Hayes for respondent-appellant father.
Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP, by Mindy Campo and Maya Engle,
for guardian ad litem.
the father of the juvenile R.P.
("Ricky"), appeals from a permanency planning review
order and an order appointing a guardian for the juvenile.
After careful review, we reverse and remand.
and Procedural Background
June 2014, Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services,
Youth and Family Services ("YFS") filed a petition
alleging that Ricky, as well as two older siblings
("Amy" and "Donald"), were neglected
and dependent juveniles. YFS claimed that it had received a
referral on 30 April 2014 stating that respondent and the
juveniles' mother had engaged in a physical altercation
in which respondent allegedly bit the mother on the leg and
struck her face. A warrant was issued for respondent's
arrest and it remained outstanding at the time the petition
was filed. A social worker met with the mother on 1 May 2014
to discuss the incident. During this meeting, the mother
refused to obtain a restraining order against respondent,
claiming that respondent "merely needed to be
hospitalized involuntarily so that he can again begin taking
his medication(s) for his bipolar disorder for which he
received disability income." The mother entered into a
safety agreement with YFS and claimed not to know of
respondent's whereabouts or contact information.
Subsequently, however, the mother retrieved Amy from her
placement with an aunt and, based on information provided by
family members, went to reside with respondent in South
Carolina. YFS obtained non-secure custody of Ricky on 17 June
2014 and placed him with his maternal aunt ("Mrs.
adjudicatory hearing was held on 19 August 2014. Respondent
had still not been served with the petition at that time.
Based upon an agreement mediated between Ricky's mother,
Amy's father, and YFS, the juveniles were adjudicated
neglected and dependent. The trial court noted that the
adjudication was being "held in abeyance" as to
respondent. The court ordered that the permanent plan for
Ricky be reunification.
review hearing was held on 18 November 2014, at which
respondent appeared. Respondent was ordered to meet with a
social worker and develop a case plan. At a review hearing
held on 24 March 2015, the court ordered respondent to be
compliant with his mental health treatment, but otherwise
continued the plan of reunification.
permanency planning review hearings held on 23 June 2015, and
7 and 20 October 2015, concerns were expressed regarding
possible incidents of domestic violence between respondent
and the juveniles' mother. The court advised respondent
and the mother that "if no [domestic violence] concerns
were raised and there was no 'drama' during this
upcoming review period then the Court can begin
considering/discussing transition plans." Nevertheless,
the court adopted a concurrent permanent plan of
October 2015, an incident occurred between respondent and the
mother which led to respondent filing a complaint for a
domestic violence protection order ("DVPO"). On 6
November 2016, a consent order was entered granting the DVPO.
The DVPO provided that respondent and the mother would have
no contact with one another for a period of one year.
subsequent permanency planning review hearing was held on 9
February 2016. In an order entered on 26 February 2016, the
court changed the primary permanent plan for Ricky to
guardianship, and changed the secondary concurrent plan for
Ricky to reunification. The court found that respondent had
made progress on his case plan, but expressed concern about
the continued domestic violence between respondent and the
mother. The court specifically noted that despite the
no-contact provisions of the DVPO, respondent and the mother
continued to have contact with one another, and expressed
"grave concern regarding the safety of the juveniles
when the parents get together." The court further found
that Ricky was doing very well with Mrs. M. and it was in his
best interests that Mrs. M. be granted guardianship. The
court stated that it would proceed with granting guardianship
to Mrs. M. at the next hearing. On 2 May 2016, ...