IN THE MATTER OF H.N.D. & L.N.A-D.
in the Court of Appeals 27 February 2019.
by Respondent-Appellant Mother from orders entered 28 March
2017 and 27 June 2018 by Judge Cheri Siler-Mack in Cumberland
County District Court Nos. 14-JA-68, 14-JT-68, 15-JA-117,
Elizabeth Kennedy-Gurnee for Petitioner-Appellee Cumberland
County Department of Social Services.
& Audino, LLP, by Jeffrey L. Miller, for
Stephen M. Schoeberle for Guardian ad
Mother (Mother) appeals from orders ceasing reunification
efforts with and terminating her parental rights to her minor
children L.N.A-D. (Lee) and H.N.D. (Hank) (collectively,
the Children). She contends that the trial court erred by
making various findings of fact and conclusions of law in
both orders. We affirm in part and dismiss in part.
February 2014, Petitioner-Appellee Cumberland County
Department of Social Services ("DSS") filed a
juvenile petition alleging that Lee was neglected and
dependent. The DSS petition alleged the following: (1) Mother
had a history of domestic violence with Lee's father
Jerry Dennings; (2) Mother and Dennings had a physical
altercation on or about 27 December 2013 in which Dennings
hit Mother in Lee's presence and forced her out of the
house threatening to kill her if she took Lee, after which
Mother left Lee with Dennings; (3) Mother stated that she
attempted to retrieve Lee from the house on 30 December 2013,
but could not do so because Dennings fired a gun at her; (4)
Dennings was involved in a physical altercation with another
woman involving a gun in Lee's presence on 17 February
2014; (5) the police came to Dennings' house on 17
February 2014, Dennings fled as a result leaving Lee
unsupervised, and Mother retrieved Lee the same day; (6)
starting on 17 February 2014, Mother told social workers she
had moved with Lee into the house of another man with whom
she had children, and with whom she had a similar history of
domestic violence, including multiple physical altercations
in the presence of Mother's children.
obtained nonsecure custody of Lee on 24 February 2014. On 5
May 2014, pursuant to an agreement between DSS and Mother,
the trial court adjudicated Lee dependent because of domestic
violence issues, and on 26 June 2014 a disposition order was
entered. On 18 November 2014, an initial permanency planning
hearing took place, and the trial court established a plan of
reunification with Mother. In its permanency planning order,
the trial court found that Mother and Dennings continued to
reside together as a couple and that they had not
appropriately addressed their domestic violence issues. The
trial court thus concluded that it was not possible for Lee
to return to his parents' custody because the conditions
which had led to his removal had not yet been alleviated.
Subsequent permanency planning orders continued with a plan
Hank's birth on 3 April 2015, DSS filed a petition
alleging that Hank was neglected and dependent. The 17 April
2015 petition described the findings from the prior order
adjudicating Lee dependent, and alleged continuing issues
between Mother and Dennings, including a 17 April 2015
argument in which Dennings threatened to break Mother's
neck. DSS obtained nonsecure custody of Hank on 17 April
2015. At a 23 September 2015 hearing, DSS and Mother
stipulated to Hank's dependent status because of domestic
violence issues. On 24 May 2014, the trial court entered an
adjudication and disposition order adjudicating Hank
written order entered 24 March 2017, the trial court ordered
the primary permanent plans for both Lee and Hank to be
adoption, and no longer reunification with Mother. In so
doing, the trial court found a "long and enduring"
history of domestic violence between Mother and Dennings,
including an incident in August 2016 in which Dennings was
arrested for assaulting Mother with a deadly weapon and
Mother sought a restraining order against Dennings. The
orders were entered on 28 March 2017, and Mother timely
preserved her right to appeal them on 30 March 2017.
Subsequent permanency planning orders continued with the plan
September 2017, DSS filed a petition to terminate
Mother's rights to the Children. Hearings took place in
February and March 2017, after which the trial court entered
an order terminating Mother's parental rights on 27 June
2018. Mother timely noticed her appeal of the permanency
planning order ceasing reunification efforts and the order
terminating her parental rights on 18 July 2018.
Court has jurisdiction to hear Mother's appeal under N.C.
Gen. Stat. § 7B-1001(a)(5) (2017) and Mother is a