of certiorari pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 7A-32(b) to review
an order entered on 12 December 2018 by Judge Doretta L.
Walker in District Court, Durham County. This matter was
calendared in the Supreme Court on 1 August 2019 but
determined on the record and briefs without oral argument
pursuant to Rule 30(f) of the North Carolina Rules of
Law Office of Derrick J. Hensley, PLLC, by Derrick J.
Hensley, Esq., and Senior Assistant County Attorney Bettyna
Belly Abney, for petitioner-appellee Durham County Department
of Social Services.
Heyman for appellee Guardian ad Litem.
McCullers Reece for respondent-appellant father.
appeals from the trial court's order terminating his
parental rights to Z.L.W. and Z.M.W. (Zena and
Zadie). We affirm.
March 2015, the Durham County Department of Social Services
(DSS) filed a petition alleging that Zena and Zadie were
neglected juveniles. DSS had received a Child Protective
Services report on 9 June 2014 claiming that respondent, the
father of the juveniles, was "extremely violent"
with the juveniles' mother in their presence and had
given her a black eye. The person who filed the report
expressed concern that respondent might kill the juveniles
and their mother. The person further reported an incident
during which respondent drove off recklessly with the
juveniles in the car while they were not safely secured and
that respondent had threatened to fire multiple gun shots at
the mother's residence.
began providing services in July 2014. Respondent was
required to complete a mental health and substance abuse
assessment, engage in domestic violence counseling, and
participate in a parent education program. In August 2014,
respondent tested positive for marijuana. In September 2014,
he completed a substance abuse assessment, but declined a
drug screen. Respondent was referred to Carolina Outreach for
mental health services, but could not be reached at the
contact numbers he provided to social workers. Respondent
also failed to attend a parenting education program. At the
time the neglect petition was filed, respondent was in the
Durham County Detention Center facing criminal charges of
assault on a female, driving while license revoked, larceny,
and second-degree trespassing.
May 2015, the trial court adjudicated Zena and Zadie
neglected based on findings of fact as stipulated by the
parties. The trial court ordered that custody remain with
their mother and required both the mother and respondent to
comply with a case plan to correct the conditions that led to
the adjudication of neglect.
November 2015, the trial court entered a review order in
which it found that respondent failed to participate in
mental health or substance abuse services and used profanity
when speaking with a DSS social worker. During a hearing on 3
February 2016, the juveniles' mother tested positive for
cocaine. On 3 March 2016, the trial court entered a review
order noting the mother's continued use of illegal
substances and granting custody of Zena and Zadie to their
review order entered on 27 April 2016, the trial court found
that respondent had not complied with recommended services.
In June 2016, the maternal grandmother could no longer
provide housing for Zena and Zadie, and she made arrangements
for the paternal grandmother to provide care for the
juveniles. In a review order entered on 12 September 2016,
the trial court granted DSS legal custody, but ordered that
Zena and Zadie continue to reside with the paternal
grandmother. The placement ended, however, after respondent
took Zena and Zadie out of the paternal grandmother's
home during an unauthorized visit. In a permanency planning
review order entered on 20 October 2017, the trial court
ceased reunification efforts and ordered DSS to file a
petition to terminate respondent's and the mother's
June 2017, DSS filed a motion and petition to terminate
respondent's and the mother's parental rights on the
grounds of neglect, willful failure to make reasonable
progress, and failure to pay support. See N.C. G.S.
§ 7B-1111(a)(1)-(3) (2017). DSS additionally alleged
that respondent had failed to legitimize Zena. See
id. § 7B-1111(a)(5) (2017). On 10 April 2018, the
mother relinquished her parental rights. On 12 December 2018,
the trial court entered an order in which it determined
grounds existed to terminate respondent's parental rights
regarding Zena pursuant N.C. G.S. § 7B-1111(a)(1), (2),
and (5), and regarding Zadie pursuant to N.C. G.S. §
7B-1111(a)(1) and (2). The trial court further concluded it
was in Zena's and Zadie's best interests that
respondent's parental rights be terminated. Accordingly,
the trial court terminated respondent's parental rights.
Respondent gave timely notice of appeal pursuant to N.C. G.S.
§§ 7A-27(a)(5) and 7B-1001(a1)(1), but improperly
designated the Court of Appeals as the court to which appeal
was being taken. On 3 May 2019, respondent filed a petition
for writ of certiorari, and this Court allowed the petition
on 22 May 2019.
sole argument on appeal is that the trial court abused its
discretion when it determined termination of his parental
rights was in Zena's and Zadie's best interests. We
Juvenile Code provides for a two-stage process for the
termination of parental rights: the adjudicatory stage and
the dispositional stage. Id. §§ 7B-1109,
-1110 (2017). At the adjudicatory stage, the petitioner bears
the burden of proving by "clear, cogent, and convincing
evidence" the existence of one or more grounds for
termination under section 7B-1111(a) of the North Carolina
General Statutes. Id. § 7B-1109(e), (f) (2017).
During the adjudicatory stage in this case, the trial court