in the Court of Appeals 17 April 2017.
by respondent-mother from orders entered 25 May 2016 by Judge
William A. Marsh, III, in Durham County District Court Durham
County, No. 15 J 178.
Assistant County Attorney Cathy L. Moore for
petitioner-appellee Durham County Department of Social
Administrative Office of the Courts, by GAL Appellate Counsel
Matthew D. Wunsche, for Guardian ad Litem.
Rebekah W. Davis for respondent-appellant mother.
appeals from the trial court's orders adjudicating her
son, K.B. (Kirk), an abused, neglected, and dependent
juvenile. For the following reasons, we affirm.
and respondent-father adopted Kirk when he was five years
old. When Kirk was two years old, he tested positive for
cocaine and was removed from his biological mother's
home. Kirk was placed in a foster home where he resided for
three years. His biological mother relinquished her parental
rights and his biological father's parental rights were
terminated by the court. Although Kirk's foster mother
wished to adopt him, his foster father did not. Kirk was
quickly placed for adoption with respondents in July 2011 and
the adoption was finalized in December 2011.
after adopting Kirk, respondent-mother became pregnant with
twins, a boy and a girl. Kirk began to act out and exhibit
behavioral issues. Respondent-mother attributed Kirk's
change in behavior to his past experience of being displaced
by a new baby boy in his foster home.
February 2012 to 9 November 2015, the Durham County
Department of Social Services (DSS) received fifteen Child
Protective Services (CPS) reports regarding Kirk. DSS
substantiated three reports filed 7 May 2012, 11 September
2013, and 26 September 2013 for neglect due to improper
discipline. Respondent-mother admitted to hitting Kirk with a
ruler in 2012, and Kirk was found to have thirty to fifty
belt marks on his buttocks, right thigh, and hip in September
2013. Respondent-father admitted that he and
respondent-mother spanked Kirk as a form of discipline. After
the September 2013 reports, DSS began in-home services with
the family. They completed the services and the case was
closed in July 2014.
respondents continued to have issues with Kirk's
behavior, he was placed in a kinship placement from 26
September to 7 October 2013, a therapeutic foster home from
23 October 2013 to 31 March 2014, and the Wright School from
2 February to 10 September 2015.
Kirk returned home from the Wright School, DSS received a CPS
report on 9 November 2015 alleging that Kirk had "
'black and bruising' around the left eye, . . .
bruising around the lips, scratches on the bridge of the
nose, and below the lips, [Kirk's] right pointer finger
[was] swollen from the knuckle to the tip and the side of the
fingers on the right hand [were] punctured." The report
also alleged that respondents did not seek a psychiatrist for
Kirk as recommended upon his release from the Wright School
and allowed Kirk's prescription for Prozac to lapse from
30 October to 10 November 2015, at a minimum.
filed a petition on 13 November 2015 alleging that Kirk was
an abused juvenile in that respondents "inflicted or
allowed to be inflicted on the juvenile a serious physical
injury by other than accidental means." Specifically,
the petition alleged that on or about 8 November 2015, Kirk
"sustained a black eye, and broken right index finger.
The injuries are unexplained. Neither parent or grandmother
could provide an explanation for the injuries. After a visit
to his psychiatrist, it was stated that his injuries are not
self-inflicted." DSS also alleged that Kirk was a
neglected juvenile in that he "does not receive proper
care, supervision, or discipline from the juvenile's
parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker."
Specifically, the petition alleged that on or about 9
November 2015, respondent-father and the grandmother
"were home at the time [Kirk] sustained the injuries but
neither could provide an explanation as to what happened to
the child." As a result, DSS was granted nonsecure
custody of Kirk.
trial court held an adjudication hearing on 13 to 14 April
2016, and on 9 to 10 May 2016. Dr. Beth Herold was accepted
as an expert in the field of child physical abuse, child
neglect, and child maltreatment. Dr. Herold treated Kirk in
November 2015 after receiving a referral from DSS. When she
saw Kirk, he "had a broken finger, " "bruises
on his face, he had a busted lip, and he had an injury to his
chest, some sort of a contusion. He had a purple and yellow
bruise and some linear marks through it." Kirk offered
multiple explanations for his injuries, claiming "that
he got hit with a rake, that he was wrestling with his
father, that he was doing cartwheels, that he dropped a
weight on his finger, and that he did it himself." Dr.
Herold testified that Kirk's injuries were not consistent
with his explanations or with typical self-injury behavior.
She opined that it was "highly probable" Kirk was
social worker, Pamela Stanton, testified that at the time of
the CPS report respondent-mother told her that Kirk had been
off Prozac for at least a week and that "she was sure
that some of his behaviors that he was experiencing or
displaying in school [were] due to that." Stanton also
testified that Kirk gave multiple histories for his injuries,
including that he had punched himself in the face, but none
explained the severity of injuries he sustained. She
testified further that DSS did not receive any reports
regarding injuries to Kirk while he was in his other
placements outside respondents' home, and that there were
instances where mental health treatment was recommended for
Kirk but never accessed by respondents. Finally, Stanton
testified that respondent-mother previously requested Kirk be
removed from her home in 2012 and April 2014, when she told
DSS: "I need someone to come get this boy, because if I
lay my hands on him, it won't be good."
testified that she only asked Kirk to be removed from her
home when it became "a safety concern, " and that
she had not spanked Kirk since 2013. She claimed that she was
not home when Kirk sustained the injuries in November 2015
and did not know how Kirk was injured: "I was at work
during the time that he allegedly snuck out of the home. By
the time I got home, he visually had marks on him."
the hearing, the trial court entered an order on 25 May 2016
adjudicating Kirk an abused, neglected, and dependent
juvenile. Respondent-mother entered written notice of
Adjudication of Dependency
first argues the trial court erred in adjudicating Kirk a
dependent juvenile because the petition only alleged that
Kirk was abused and neglected. We disagree.
pleading in an abuse, neglect, or dependency action is the
petition." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-401 (2015). In an
adjudicatory hearing on a juvenile abuse, neglect, or
dependency petition, a trial court is required to
"adjudicate the existence or nonexistence of any of the
conditions alleged in a petition." N.C. Gen.
Stat. § 7B-802 (2015) (emphasis added). "If the
court finds . . . that the allegations in the
petition have been proven by clear and convincing
evidence, the court shall so state" in a written order.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-807(a) (2015) (emphasis added).
in a petition may include specific factual allegations
attached to a form petition for support." In re
D.C., 183 N.C.App. 344, 349, 644 S.E.2d 640, 643 (2007)
(citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Moreover, "[w]hile it is certainly the better practice
for the petitioner to 'check' the appropriate box on
the petition for each ground for adjudication, if the
specific factual allegations of the petition are sufficient
to put the respondent on notice as to each alleged ground for
adjudication, the petition will be adequate."
Id. at 350, 644 S.E.2d at 643.
"dependent juvenile" is defined as
[a] juvenile in need of assistance or placement because (i)
the juvenile has no parent, guardian, or custodian
responsible for the juvenile's care or supervision or
(ii) the juvenile's parent, guardian, or custodian is
unable to provide for the juvenile's care or ...