Originally heard in the Court of Appeals 5 December 2016.
remand by order of Supreme Court in Matter of J.A.M., __ N.C.
__, 809 S.E.2d 579 (2018), reversing and remanding the
unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals in Matter of
J.A.M., __ N.C.App. __, 795 S.E.2d 262 (2016). Originally
appealed by respondent from order entered 30 March 2016 by
Judge Louis A. Trosch in Mecklenburg County District Court,
No. 16 JA 89
Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services, Youth and
Family Services, by Christopher C. Peace, for
Richard Croutharmel for respondent-appellant.
Spruill LLP, by Caroline P. Mackie, for guardian ad litem.
case comes before us on remand from the North Carolina
Supreme Court for reconsideration and for proper application
of the appellate standard of review to the trial court's
findings and conclusions of law. On remand, we consider
respondent-mother's appeal from an order adjudicating her
daughter, juvenile J.A.M., neglected and ceasing all future
reunification efforts with respondent-mother. After careful
review, we affirm.
has a long history of involvement with Mecklenburg Department
of Social Services, Youth and Family Services
("YFS") that began in 2007 due to allegations of
domestic violence. Since then, YFS' involvement with
respondent-mother has been primarily related to her history
of violent relationships with the fathers of her previous six
children, in which the children witnessed domestic violence,
and also were caught in the middle of physical altercations.
During this time, respondent-mother repeatedly declined YFS
services and continued to deny, minimize, and avoid talking
about the violence. The most serious incident of violence
occurred in June 2012 when "following another domestic
violence incident between herself and" one of her
children's father, respondent-mother placed one of her
children "in an incredibly unsafe situation sleeping on
the sofa with [his father] for the night, which resulted in
[the child] suffering severe, life-threatening injuries,
including multiple skull fractures, at the hands of [the
father.]" Matter of J.A.M., __ N.C. at __, 809
S.E.2d at 580. After observing the severity of the injuries
the following morning, respondent-mother "did not dial
911 for over two hours[, ]" and, "[a]fterwards, she
refused to acknowledge [the child's] 'significant
special needs' that resulted from his injuries, claiming
'there is nothing wrong with him, ' and proceeded to
have another child with [the same father] in 2013 when he was
out on bond for charges of felony child abuse."
Id. at__, 809 S.E.2d at 580. Subsequently, on 21
April 2014, respondent-mother's parental rights were
terminated to her six children, largely because she failed
"to take any steps to change the pattern of domestic
violence and lack of stability for the children since
2007." Id. at__, 809 S.E.2d at 580 (internal
quotation marks omitted).
received a report on 25 February 2016 that respondent-mother
had given birth to J.A.M. On 29 February 2016, DSS filed a
juvenile petition alleging neglect of J.A.M. The trial court
conducted a contested adjudication hearing on 30 March 2016.
The trial court received the adjudication and termination of
parental rights orders for respondent-mother and J.A.M.'s
father's other children into evidence. J.A.M.'s
father's criminal record was also admitted into evidence.
testified at the hearing, vaguely acknowledging that she made
" 'bad decisions' and 'bad choices' in
the past, without offering specific examples except for
'giv[ing] men benefits of the doubts.' "
Matter of J.A.M., __ N.C. at __, 809 S.E.2d at 580.
She also testified:
Q. Why were your rights terminated?
A1. Because when my child came back into -- my kids came back
into custody, due to my child being physical injury
[sic] by his father [ ]. That's --
Q. So your understanding is that your rights to your six
other children was -- were terminated because of one child
being physically abused?
A. Oh, yes, ma'am. . . .
Q. And what role do you think you played in your child
getting hurt by that father?
A. I was upstairs sleeping.
A. I didn't have -- I didn't have a role into what my
child being hurt [sic]. I didn't play a role in
Q. And so basically, do you feel that your rights to the six
other children, your rights were unjustly terminated?
A. Yes, ma'am. I do feel that way.
March 2016, the trial court entered an order finding that
J.A.M.'s parents had failed to make any substantive
progress in their prior cases, and both parents declined to
work with YFS and ...