discretionary review pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 7A-31,
prior to determination in the Court of Appeals, of an order
entered on 12 December 2018 by Judge Ali B. Paksoy in
District Court, Cleveland County. This matter was calendared
for argument in the Supreme Court on 7 November 2019 but
determined on the record and briefs without oral argument
pursuant to Rule 30(f) of the North Carolina Rules of
Charles E. Wilson, Jr. for petitioner-appellee Cleveland
County Department of Social Services.
Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP, by William L. Esser IV, for
appellee Guardian ad Litem.
Surratt Thompson & Ceberio PLLC, by Christopher M.
Watford, for respondent-appellant mother.
appeals from the district court's 12 December 2018 order
terminating her parental rights to A.R.A. (Amy), P.Z.A.
(Peter), and Z.K.A. (Zara) (collectively, the
children). We affirm.
Cleveland County Department of Social Services (DSS) has an
extensive history of involvement with respondent-mother and
the father of the juveniles in this matter, based
upon the father's substance abuse and domestic violence
issues. In 2013, the father was convicted of assaulting Amy
and respondent-mother. In 2015, the father assaulted Peter
and threatened to kill Peter and respondent-mother. The
father assaulted Amy again in 2015, resulting in a conviction
of habitual misdemeanor assault. After serving time in prison
for the habitual misdemeanor assault conviction, the father
was released from incarceration in October 2016. In December
2016, respondent-mother allowed the father to return to the
home where she lived with the children, despite his prior
assaults on them and in violation of a specific condition of
the father's post-release supervision conditions.
December 2016, respondent-mother voluntarily placed all three
children in foster care so that the father could reside in
the family home with her. On 13 January 2017, DSS obtained
nonsecure custody of the children and filed a juvenile
petition alleging that the children were neglected juveniles.
In its petition, DSS alleged that respondent-mother and the
father had repeatedly failed to comply and cooperate with DSS
and the court to assist the parents in keeping the children
safe and in avoiding the need for an out-of-home placement.
district court entered a combined adjudication and
disposition order on 24 March 2017. Based upon stipulations
made by the parties, the children were adjudicated to be
neglected juveniles, and custody of the juveniles was
continued with DSS. Respondent-mother was ordered to complete
a court-approved parenting education program; demonstrate
appropriate parenting skills and an understanding of how
substance abuse and domestic violence affects the children;
complete an assessment by the Abuse Prevention Council (APC)
or another court-approved domestic violence victims'
program and comply with all recommendations for treatment;
and demonstrate her ability to provide a safe and stable home
environment consistent with county minimum standards and that
is free from substance abuse and domestic violence for a
minimum of six months. The father was ordered to comply with
similar requirements, with the additional requirements of
completing a substance abuse assessment; obtaining assessment
through a domestic violence batterer's program; and
complying with all resulting recommendations.
review hearing held on 14 June 2017, pursuant to N.C. G.S.
§ 7B-906.1, the district court found that
respondent-mother and the father had continued to reside
together. Respondent-mother had started parenting classes and
the APC program, but had missed two sessions of the APC
November 2017, the district court held a permanency planning
hearing pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 7B-906.1, at which
respondent-mother stated that it was Amy who had wanted the
father to return to the family home upon his release from
prison. In an order entered on 14 November 2017, the district
court found that respondent-mother and the father continued
to reside together, and that they continued to deny or
minimize the impact that their substance abuse and history of
domestic violence had upon the children. Respondent-mother
completed a parenting program in July 2017, but, at the time
of the hearing, had completed only four out of the twelve
sessions required by the APC program. The district court
further found that respondent-mother and the father both
tested positive for marijuana in September 2017. The district
court adopted a primary permanent plan of reunification with
a secondary permanent plan of custody with a court-approved
December 2017, the district court held a permanency planning
review hearing. The district court entered an order on 11
January 2018 finding that, although respondent-mother and the
father had made some effort to comply with the court's
requirements, they had not demonstrated to the court any
significant progress in correcting the conditions that led to
the children's removal from their care. Respondent-mother
was scheduled to complete the APC program on 22 December 2017
but had failed to comply with the court's recommendations
for mental health services and substance abuse treatment.
Both parents continued to deny responsibility for their
situation and placed the blame on the children, particularly
Amy. In its January 2018 order, the district court changed
the primary permanent plan to adoption, concurrent with a
secondary permanent plan of reunification.
January 2018, DSS filed a petition to terminate the parental
rights of respondent-mother and the father on the grounds of
neglect, willful failure to make reasonable progress, and
willful failure to pay a reasonable portion of the cost of
care. See N.C. G.S. § 7B-1111(a)(1)-(3) (2017).
The district court held hearings on the 2018 dates of 18
July, 25 September, and 16 November, and on 12 December 2018,
entered an order finding that the evidence in the case
established facts sufficient to support the termination of
respondent-mother's and father's parental rights on
the grounds of neglect and willful failure to make reasonable
progress. The district court further concluded that it was in
the children's best interests that both parents'
parental rights be terminated. Accordingly, the district
court terminated the parental rights of respondent-mother and
gave timely notice of appeal to the North Carolina Court of
Appeals. On 8 April 2019, respondent-mother filed a petition
with this Court seeking discretionary review of the order
terminating her parental rights, prior to a determination of
the Court of Appeals. This Court ...