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In re N.X.A.

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

August 1, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF: N.X.A. And IN THE MATTER OF: B.R.S.A-D. and D.S.K.A-D.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 6 June 2017.

         Appeal by respondents from orders entered 26 October 2016 by Judge David V. Byrd in Wilkes County Nos. 4 JT 127, 14 JT 56-57 District Court.

          Erika L. Hamby, for petitioner-appellee Wilkes County Department of Social Services.

          K&L Gates LLP, by appellate guardian ad litem attorney advocate Hillary Dawe, for petitioner-appellee guardian ad litem.

          Mark L. Hayes, for respondent-appellant mother.

          Richard Croutharmel, for respondent-appellant father.

          CALABRIA, Judge.

         Where the verification of petitions alleging neglect and dependency was made by a State agent acquainted with the facts of the case, it was sufficient to grant jurisdiction to the trial court. Where the trial court found that mother had the resources to pay some amount towards the care of the minor children greater than she in fact paid, the trial court did not err in terminating mother's parental rights for failure to provide care and support. Where one ground exists to terminate mother's parental rights, we need not address mother's arguments with respect to other grounds.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On 10 April 2014, Paul W. Freeman ("Freeman"), an attorney, filed juvenile petitions on behalf of the Wilkes County Department of Social Services ("DSS"). These petitions alleged that N.X.A., B.R.S.A-D., and D.S.K.A-D. (collectively, "the minor children") were neglected and dependent juveniles. The petitions named J.A. ("mother") as mother of all three juveniles, and J.D. ("father") as father of B.R.S.A-D. and D.S.K.A-D. In support of the contention that each of the minor children was neglected, the petitions alleged the following language:

Upon Information and Belief, on the above date, the Mother of the child was arrested for one or more violations of the Controlled Substances laws. A Methamphetamine Lab (or parts for same) was/were found in (or around) the home occupied by the child, his siblings and Mother. This poses a significant risk to the child should he be returned to the home, and has posed a substantial risk prior to discovery. The Wilkes County Department of Social Services has been involved with this family for many years dealing with problems of parental substance abuse and improper care/supervision of children.

         All three petitions contain the identical language. All three are also verified by Freeman, in a verification section containing the following language:

Being first duly sworn, I say that I have read this Petition and that the same is true to my own knowledge, except as to those things alleged upon information and belief, and as to those, I believe it to be true.

         These petitions were ultimately heard by the District Court of Wilkes County, and in an adjudication and disposition order dated 18 July 2014, the court ordered that the minor children be placed in the custody of DSS. The matter proceeded for two years, and on 12 January 2016, DSS filed verified petitions to terminate mother's and father's parental rights with respect to the minor children. On 26 October 2016, the trial court ...


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