in the Court of Appeals 10 August 2017.
by respondent-father from orders entered 22 November 2016 by
Judge Frederick Wilkins in Rockingham County No. 14 JT 182-84
Beverley A. Smith, for Petitioner-Appellee Rockingham County
Department of Social Services.
Golden, for guardian ad litem.
Wood, for Respondent-Appellant father.
"Harvey" the father of juveniles
E.B., M.B., and A.B. ("Ernie, " "Molly, "
and "Annie, "), appeals from an order terminating his
parental rights. The trial court declared that Harvey had
willfully abandoned his children and that he made no
reasonable progress on the case plan, thus rendering them
neglected. After careful review, we reverse and remand for
additional findings of fact and conclusions of law.
December 2014, the Rockingham County Department of Social
Services ("DSS") filed a petition alleging that
Ernie, Molly, and Annie were neglected and dependent
juveniles due to "severe and ongoing domestic
violence" in their home. DSS stated that the family came
to its attention after Harvey assaulted a child who was in
his home. That child, who is not one of the juveniles who is
the subject of this action, entered DSS's care and
informed DSS that there was domestic violence in Harvey's
home. DSS learned that on 5 June 2013, Ernie was injured when
his mother ("Gert") threw a metal cup which hit
Ernie in the face. Harvey and Gert gave differing stories as
to whether Gert intended to throw the cup at Eddie or at
Harvey. Harvey's family was referred for in-home
December 2014, a social worker went to Harvey's home for
a scheduled visit to provide services. During a check of the
home, the DSS worker heard an altercation taking place inside
of the home and decided to call the police. On arrival, the
social worker observed a lamp, and then wooden pieces from a
broken table thrown from a window in the residence. The
social worker called the police. Harvey and Gert later
acknowledged to the social worker that they had been in an
altercation. All three juveniles were present during the
incident. Harvey and the juveniles were transported to the
paternal grandmother's home with, according to DSS,
"the understanding that they were to remain there for
the time being while new arrangements were made to address
the ongoing domestic violence."
December 2014, DSS social worker Jordan Houchins went to the
residence to discuss the 8 December 2014 incident with Gert.
The social worker found their home in ruins. There were
multiple holes in walls in the residence; all of the tables
in the house had been destroyed; and there were broken dishes
on the floor of the juveniles' bedrooms. These conditions
resulted from numerous domestic violence incidences. Gert
told the social worker that she and Harvey had hit each other
during these altercations. Gert, however, refused to seek a
domestic violence protection order and did not want to go to
a shelter. When the social worker examined the juveniles'
bedrooms, she found Harvey hiding under a blanket in one of
the beds. Harvey claimed to be sleeping, and denied that he
was hiding from the social worker. He became belligerent when
confronted by the social worker. The social worker attempted
to assume emergency custody of the children. Harvey then
picked up Molly, an infant, and left the residence. Molly was
not appropriately dressed as she was wearing only a
"onesie" and it was a "bitterly cold
morning." Law enforcement subsequently located Harvey
and Molly several blocks from the residence. DSS subsequently
obtained non-secure custody of all the juveniles.
November 2015, the trial court adjudicated the juveniles to
be neglected and dependent after Harvey and Gert admitted to
the altercations alleged in the petition. The trial court
ordered Harvey to comply with a case plan, which included:
(1) complete a domestic violence offender treatment/education
and counseling; (2) complete an approved parenting class; (3)
submit to a mental health assessment and comply with all
recommendations; (4) obtain and maintain suitable housing for
the juveniles; (5) obtain employment with income sufficient
to provide for the basic needs of the juveniles; and (6)
obtain transportation sufficient to provide for Harvey's
and the juveniles' basic needs.
trial court initially ordered a permanent plan of
reunification for the juveniles. The trial court later
changed the primary permanent plan to adoption because Harvey
and Gert "continue[d] to engage in domestic
violence." The secondary plan remained reunification. On
28 September 2016, DSS filed a petition to terminate
Harvey's and Gert's parental rights pursuant to ...