Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re J.A.M.

Supreme Court of North Carolina

February 1, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF: J.A.M.

          Heard in the Supreme Court on 9 January 2019.

          Appeal pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 7A-30(2) from the decision of a divided panel of the Court of Appeals, __ N.C.App. __, 816 S.E.2d 901 (2018), on remand from this Court, 370 N.C. 464, 809 S.E.2d 579 (2018), affirming an order entered on 30 March 2016 by Judge Louis A. Trosch in District Court, Mecklenburg County.

          Matthew D. Wunsche, GAL Appellate Counsel, and Caroline P. Mackie for appellee Guardian ad Litem; and Marc S. Gentile, Associate County Attorney, for petitioner-appellee Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services, Youth and Family Services.

          Richard Croutharmel for respondent-appellant mother.

          HUDSON, JUSTICE.

         The case comes to us based on a dissenting opinion in the Court of Appeals. The sole issue before us is whether the Court of Appeals majority correctly determined that the clear and convincing evidence and the trial court's findings of fact supported its conclusion of law that the juvenile J.A.M. was neglected. Because we conclude that the trial court made sufficient findings of fact based on evidence of conditions at the relevant time to support its conclusion of neglect, we affirm.

         Background

         J.A.M. was born in January 2016. In late February 2016, Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services, Youth and Family Services (YFS) received a child protective services report making the department aware of J.A.M.'s birth, and YFS immediately opened an investigation. On 29 February, YFS filed a juvenile petition alleging that J.A.M. was not safe in the home because of the histories of both parents.[1]

         On 30 March 2016, a hearing regarding J.A.M. took place before Mecklenburg County District Court Judge Louis A. Trosch, who entered a consolidated adjudicatory and dispositional order in J.A.M.'s case based on testimony and exhibits admitted as evidence to the court. The court adjudicated J.A.M. neglected and, in the dispositional phase of the proceeding, ordered reunification efforts with J.A.M.'s mother (respondent-mother) to cease and established that the primary plan of care for J.A.M. would be reunification with her father (respondent-father).[2]

         Respondent-mother has a significant history of involvement with YFS extending back to 2007 relating to children born prior to J.A.M.[3] Significant evidence relating to YFS' previous interactions with respondent-mother involving her older children was entered into the record in the adjudication phase of J.A.M.'s case. The evidence before the trial court tended to show that respondent-mother has a long history of violent relationships with the fathers of her previous six children, during which her children "not only witnessed domestic violence, but were caught in the middle of physical altercations." Furthermore, during this period, she repeatedly declined services from YFS and "continued to deny, minimize and avoid talking about incidences of violence." All of this resulted in her three oldest children first entering the custody of YFS on 24 February 2010.

         The most serious incident occurred in June 2012 when respondent-mother was in a relationship with E.G. Sr., the father of her child E.G. Jr., a relationship that- like prior relationships between respondent-mother and other men-had a component of domestic violence. Respondent-mother had recently represented to the court that "her relationship with [E.G. Sr.] was over" and stated that she "realized that the relationship with [E.G. Sr.] was bad for her children"; however, she quickly invited E.G. Sr. back into her home. Following another domestic violence incident between respondent-mother and E.G. Sr., E.G. Jr. "was placed in an incredibly unsafe situation sleeping on the sofa with [E.G. Sr.]" for the night, which resulted in E.G. Jr. suffering severe, life-threatening injuries, including multiple skull fractures, at the hands of E.G. Sr. The next morning, respondent-mother "observed [E.G. Jr.'s] swollen head, his failure to respond, [and] his failure to open his eyes or move his limbs," but she did not dial 911 for over two hours. Following this incident, respondent-mother's children re-entered the custody of YFS. Afterwards, she refused to acknowledge E.G. Jr.'s "significant special needs" that resulted from his injuries, maintaining that "there [was] nothing wrong with him" and "stat[ing] that he [did] not need all the services that [were] being recommended for him." Respondent-mother proceeded to have another child with E.G. Sr. when he was out on bond for charges of felony child abuse.

         In response to respondent-mother's failure to protect E.G. Jr., as well as her other children, her parental rights to the six children she had at the time were terminated in an order filed on 21 April 2014 by Judge Trosch. The 2014 termination order was based largely on the court's finding that she had "not taken any steps to change the pattern of domestic violence and lack of stability for the children since 2007."

         At the 30 March 2016 adjudication hearing for J.A.M., the court received into evidence several exhibits that included the 21 April 2014 order terminating respondent-mother's parental rights to her six older children, a 27 February 2013 adjudication and disposition order regarding five of those children, and a certified copy of the criminal record of respondent-father showing that he had been convicted twice in 2013 for assault on a female.[4]

         In addition to receiving these exhibits into the record, the court also heard testimony from several witnesses. Stephanie West, social work supervisor at

         Mecklenburg County Child Protective Services, testified that when the department received the report regarding J.A.M., a social worker was assigned to go to the home and perform a safety assessment in light of both parents' prior YFS involvement. Both parents declined to sign the safety assessment. A department representative returned the following day to talk with respondent-mother about setting up a Child Family Team meeting, but she "adamantly stated she was not interested." Ms. West further discussed respondent-mother's viewpoint at the second visit.

Q. And when she said she was not interested, not interested in what?
A. More services. She was not going to engage in any services. She reported that she had gone through services, she didn't need any services, there were [sic] no current domestic violence going on, and she was -- and that was pretty-much [sic] all she had to say.

         Respondent-mother also testified at the hearing and was asked questions on two subjects pertinent to this appeal: (1) her familiarity with respondent-father's domestic violence history, and (2) her understanding of what had led to the termination of her parental rights to her older children.

         Respondent-mother stated that she knew the "warning signs" of domestic violence to look for in a relationship. However, she subsequently testified that she was aware that respondent-father had been arrested for assault on a female in a case involving his sister but acknowledged ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.