IN RE: T.H. & M.H.
in the Court of Appeals 30 May 2019.
by Respondents from order entered 1 June 2018 by Judge
Charlie Brown in Rowan County District Court, Nos. 16 JT
R. Thompson for Petitioner-Appellee Rowan County Department
of Social Services.
Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLP, by Katherine Barber-Jones,
for guardian ad litem.
Dorothy Hairston Mitchell for Respondent-Appellant Mother.
Defender Wendy C. Sotolongo, by Deputy Parent Defender Annick
Lenoir-Peek, for Respondent-Appellant Father.
Mother and Father of the minor children T.H.
("Tonya") and M.H. ("Madeline"),
appeal from the trial court's order terminating their
parental rights to the children. We hold the trial court did
not abuse its discretion in determining that termination of
Mother's parental rights was in the children's best
interests, and we hold it properly concluded grounds existed
to terminate Father's parental rights based on neglect.
We, therefore, affirm the trial court's order.
history with the Rowan County Department of Social Services
("DSS") dates back to 2011 due to substance abuse
and mental health issues and their lack of proper care and
supervision of the children. In November 2011, Mother tested
positive for methadone and amphetamines at Tonya's birth,
and Tonya had to remain in the hospital for weeks due to
significant withdrawal symptoms. From 2011 to 2016, DSS
received multiple reports regarding the family due to drug
abuse and supervision issues.
most recently became involved with the family in early 2016
after receiving reports relating to Respondents'
substance abuse and inappropriate living conditions. On 12
February 2016, DSS filed a juvenile petition alleging both
juveniles to be neglected and dependent and took the children
into non-secure custody.
later, Respondents entered into an Out of Home Family
Services Agreement (OHFSA) in which they agreed to obtain and
maintain appropriate housing, obtain and maintain employment,
complete substance abuse and mental health treatment,
complete a psychiatric evaluation, submit to random drug
screens, complete a parenting education course, resolve all
pending legal issues, and refrain from criminal activity.
weeks later, on 31 March 2016, the trial court entered a
consent order, adjudicating the children neglected and
dependent. The trial court found that Respondents had
multiple pending criminal charges and continued to suffer
from long-term, untreated substance abuse and mental health
issues. The court also found that the children were living in
an unsafe environment and were not receiving proper medical
or dental care. The court ordered Respondents to comply with
the components of their case plan. Over the next several
months, however, both Mother and Father were in and out of
June 2016, Mother completed her substance abuse assessment
and was recommended to complete forty (40) hours of
structured group therapy and to see a psychiatrist. Mother
attended one group session in December 2016 but did not
attend another session. On 23 January 2017, Mother was
arrested for obtaining a controlled substance by fraud or
forgery after attempting to fill her recently deceased
mother's prescription for Alprazolam.
2017, the trial court entered a permanency planning review
order, changing the primary permanent plan to adoption with a
secondary plan of reunification. The trial court found that
Respondents had not made any progress on their case plans,
finding that Respondents had not participated in any
treatment recommendations, including any substance abuse or
mental health services, that they had not engaged in any
parenting education services, and that "[n]either parent
understands the severity of their [criminal] charges or the
effect their criminal behavior and incarcerations have on
later, in July 2017, DSS filed a petition to terminate
Respondents' parental rights based on the grounds of
neglect, willfully leaving the children in foster care
without making reasonable progress to correct the conditions
which led to the children's removal, and willfully
failing to pay a reasonable portion ...