Ballard, Matter of

Decision Date28 August 1984
Docket NumberNo. 485A83,485A83
Citation319 S.E.2d 227,311 N.C. 708
CourtNorth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesIn the Matter of Christie Lynn BALLARD.

Ruff, Bond, Cobb, Wade & McNair by Moses Luski and William H. McNair, Charlotte, for petitioner-appellee, Mecklenburg County Dept. of Social Services.

Robert D. McDonnell, Charlotte, as Guardian ad Litem for Christie Lynn Ballard, appellee.

Richard F. Harris, III, Charlotte, for respondent-appellant, Sandra Ballard Ard.

MITCHELL, Justice.

This appeal arises from an order of the District Court, Mecklenburg County, ordering the parental rights of the respondent appellant terminated on the ground that she had neglected her child and on the separate ground that she had failed to pay a reasonable portion of the cost of care for the child for a continuous period of six months after it had been placed in the custody of the county department of social services. N.C.G.S. 7A-289.32(2) and (4). The respondent mother contends inter alia on appeal that the trial court erred by terminating her parental rights on the ground of failure to pay a reasonable portion of the costs of care for the child, since the trial court failed to determine specifically that the respondent had the ability to pay. She also contends that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence a prior order involving the same child which determined the child to be neglected and awarded custody to the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services. For errors committed, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals which affirmed the order of the trial court.

The Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services (hereinafter "DSS") filed a juvenile petition on December 3, 1980, and an amended petition dated December 8, 1980, alleging that Christie Lynn Ballard was neglected and dependent. DSS assumed custody of Christie under a nonsecure custody order on December 3, 1980. A hearing was held before District Court Judge Walter H. Bennett on January 5, 1981. On January 23, 1981, Judge Bennett entered an order adjudging the child to be a neglected and dependent child. The January 23 order included the following specific findings of fact:

....

5. The mother is approximately 20 years old, has had no regular place to live since the birth of her child, and has always lived with other people.

....

7. The mother recently spoke to Ms. Bullins of putting the child in an orphanage after Christmas, 1980. In June of 1980 the mother called the Department of Social Services and stated that she could not take care of the child and requested that said child either be placed in foster care or adopted. At the five-day hearing in this matter held December 8, 1980, [the mother], prior to the hearing, indicated to Mrs. Johnson that she was not able at the present time to care for this child.

8. In prior conversations with Mrs. Johnson, [the mother] admitted that in the last two years she had been leaving her child with anyone who would take her; that in November, 1980, she left the child at Dot Simpson's house, knowing said house had no heat; that she has had no permanent place to live since the birth of the child; that she has not been regularly employed since the birth of the child.

9. [The mother] was informed by Mrs. Johnson as to the availability of AFDC aid and encouraged by Mrs. Johnson to apply for such aid. Mrs. Johnson told [the mother] that she would assist [her] in obtaining such aid provided that [she] contacted her. [The mother] never applied for such aid and consequently did not receive any AFDC funds in November, 1980.

10. There was very little clothing for the child when she was picked up at the Bullins' residence by Mrs. Johnson pursuant to an immediate custody order issued by this Court. Subsequently, DSS has had to issue an emergency clothing check to the child in order to suitably clothe the child.

11. Ms. Ballard is currently working at the Classy Kitten, a topless lounge on East Morehead Street, Charlotte, North Carolina.

On December 9, 1981, DSS petitioned to terminate the parental rights of Russell Carlton and the respondent appellant, Sandra Ballard Ard. After a hearing in District Court, Judge William G. Jones entered an order on June 22, 1982 terminating the parental rights of Carlton and the respondent appellant Sandra Ballard Ard. The order of June 22 contained the following findings and conclusions:

....

2. That shortly after the birth of the child, to wit in January, 1979, the Department of Social Services received a referral concerning the care which said child was receiving from her parents.

3. That additional referrals were received by the Department of Social Services; and in December of 1980 an immediate custody order was issued by this Court and the child was placed in the custody of the Department of Social Services.

4. That an adjudicatory hearing upon the petition alleging the child to be a neglected and dependent child was held by this Court on January 5, 1981, and extensive findings of fact were made by the Honorable Judge Walter H. Bennett, Jr., Judge Presiding; and that Judge Bennett found Christie Lynn Ballard to be a neglected child by virtue of the failure of the mother to properly care for said child; and that no appeal from the decision of Judge Walter H. Bennett, Jr. was taken.

5. That subsequent to the child coming into the care of the Department of Social Services, the mother, Sandra Elaine Ballard, entered, on June 8, 1981, into a parent/agency agreement with the Department of Social Services pursuant to the order of February 25, 1981, in which, among other things, she agreed to pay support of $8.00 a week for the child, to maintain steady employment and a stable residence; but that subsequent to June 8, 1981 (the date of the agreement), the respondent has had and lost at least three separate part time jobs and has changed her residence six or seven times. Mrs. Ard was unable to work in January and February, 1982, because of medical problems.

6. That progress was made by Sandra Ard from time to time toward regaining custody of her child; and, in particular, progress became evident in July, 1981, when Sandra Ballard married Mr. Ard; but that in August, 1981, shortly after she was told that a temporary placement of Christie with her mother was going to be recommended by the Department of Social Services, Sandra Ard had a fight with her husband, went to Florida with another man and stayed there almost a month; and that again in February, 1982, Sandra Ard was advised by the Department of Social Services that because her situation had stabilized to a degree, a temporary placement would be recommended to begin on or about March 5, 1982; but that within a few days after being told that her child might be returned on a temporary basis, Sandra Ard again had a fight with her husband and left the residence of her inlaws and husband where she had been living since their marriage, and the placement of Christie with her was therefore never made.

7. That Christie Lynn Ballard has been in the custody of the Department of Social Services continuously since December of 1980 and the mother has worked from time to time and has paid absolutely no support for the child in the almost year and a half the child has been in the custody of the petitioner; and that neither has the respondent Russell Carlton paid any support whatever for the child, nor has he made any contact with the Department of Social Services concerning the child's condition and well-being.

8. That the mother of said child, Sandra Ballard Ard, has throughout the life of this child evidenced a propensity to let other things come before the care and responsibility of her child; and this child has been in foster care almost a year and a half during her three and one-half years of life; and this child is in need of permanent placement and a stable home, which this court is convinced cannot be provided by either respondent, Russell Carlton or Sandra Elaine Ballard Ard.

....

10. That this Court adopts the findings and facts contained in the order of Judge Walter H. Bennett, Jr. dated January 23, 1981, and further adopts the conclusion of the Court that Sandra Elaine Ballard Ard neglected the child prior to her coming into the custody of the Department of Social Services.

....

12. That based upon the foregoing, this Court concludes as a matter of law that grounds for termination of the parental rights of the mother, Sandra Elaine Ballard Ard, exist under the provisions of G.S. Sec. 7A-289.32(2) and (4); and with respect to Mr. Carlton under G.S. Sec. 7A(2), (4) and (6); and the Court further concludes that the best interests of Christie Lynn Ballard require that this Court terminate the parental rights of Sandra Elaine Ballard Ard and Russell Carlton with respect to said child.

The respondent Sandra Ballard Ard appealed to the Court of Appeals from the June 22, 1982 order of the trial court. The Court of Appeals affirmed with a dissenting opinion by Judge Wells. By reason of the dissent, the respondent appellant appealed to this Court as a matter of right under N.C.G.S. 7A-30(2).

The respondent appellant assigns as error the trial court's determination that her parental rights should be terminated by reason of her neglect of the child. N.C.G.S. 7A-289.32(2). She first contends that the trial court erred during the hearing on the petition to terminate her parental rights by admitting into evidence over her objection the order of Judge Bennett entered on January 23, 1981, which determined that the respondent's child was a neglected and dependent child. We do not agree.

In the recent case of In re Moore, 306 N.C. 394, 293 S.E.2d 127 (1982), appeal dismissed, 459 U.S. 1139, 103 S.Ct. 776, 74 L.Ed.2d 987 (1983), a majority of this Court indicated, despite a vigorous dissent, that in ruling upon a petition for termination of parental rights for neglect, the trial court may consider neglect of the child by its...

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  • In re K.J.L.
    • United States
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    • December 16, 2008
    ...by the trial court in ruling upon a later petition to terminate parental rights on the ground of neglect." In re Ballard, 311 N.C. 708, 713-14, 319 S.E.2d 227, 231 (1984). In the instant case, K.J.L. was adjudicated a neglected juvenile on 31 July 2006. In the dispositional order, the trial......
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    ...of changed conditions in light of the evidence of prior neglect and the probability of a repetition of neglect. In re Ballard , 311 N.C. 708, 715, 319 S.E.2d 227, 232 (1984). We agree with the Court of Appeals’ precedent holding that the trial court may not rely solely on prior court orders......
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