in the Supreme Court on 9 January 2019.
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
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
Richard Croutharmel for respondent-appellant mother.
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
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
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
has a significant history of involvement with YFS extending
back to 2007 relating to children born prior to
J.A.M. 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
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
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."
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.
addition to receiving these exhibits into the record, the
court also heard testimony from several witnesses. Stephanie
West, social work supervisor at
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
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.
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.
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 ...