In re A.K., 342A21

Docket NºNo. 342A21
Citation867 S.E.2d 879
Case DateFebruary 11, 2022
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Carolina

867 S.E.2d 879

In the MATTER OF: A.K.

No. 342A21

Supreme Court of North Carolina.

Filed February 11, 2022

Chrystal Kay, for petitioner-appellee Randolph County Department of Social Services.

Hill Law, PLLC, by Lindsey Reedy, for appellee Guardian ad Litem.

Leslie Rawls, Charlotte, for respondent-appellant father.

MORGAN, Justice.

¶ 1 Respondent-father appeals from the trial court's order terminating his parental rights to "Alice,"1 a minor child born on 13 December 2017. After careful review, we conclude that the issues identified by counsel for respondent-father as arguably supporting an appeal are meritless and therefore hold that there was no error in the trial court's decision to discontinue reunification efforts, that the evidence and resulting findings of fact support the trial court's determination that grounds existed to substantiate the termination of respondent-father's parental rights

867 S.E.2d 882

to Alice, and that there was no abuse of discretion in the trial court's conclusion that it would be in Alice's best interests for respondent-father's parental rights to be terminated. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's order terminating respondent-father's parental rights to Alice.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

¶ 2 On 18 December 2017, the Randolph County Department of Social Services (DSS) filed a juvenile petition in the District Court, Randolph County, alleging that Alice, who was born five days prior to the filing of the petition, was a dependent juvenile. Alice's mother, who was seventeen years of age at the time that the petition was filed, was the named respondent; the identity of Alice's father was unknown at the time of the filing. The petition alleged, inter alia , that the mother was not providing proper care to Alice in the hospital after the child's birth and that at the time of Alice's birth, the mother was living with her own father in a home which DSS found to be inappropriate for Alice. Accordingly, DSS sought nonsecure custody of Alice on the grounds of dependency. The trial court thereupon granted nonsecure custody of Alice to DSS.

¶ 3 Subsequent to the initiation of this case, DNA testing established that respondent-father was Alice's biological father, and he was then joined as a respondent in the action. Respondent-father had been living in Brunswick County, but upon learning that he was the biological father of Alice, respondent-father moved in with his sister and brother-in-law in Randolph County in order to be closer to Alice. Following a March 2018 adjudication hearing, the trial court entered an order in which it determined that Alice was a dependent juvenile and directed that Alice remain in DSS custody with a case plan of reunification. In June 2018, the mother relinquished her parental rights to Alice. Consequently, the mother did not participate in any further proceedings regarding Alice at the trial court level, and the mother is not a party to this appeal.

¶ 4 Respondent-father worked on a case plan with DSS regarding Alice, and by January 2019, he had "completed most of his services and seem[ed] committed to the minor child and meeting her needs." In an August 2019 order, the trial court permitted respondent-father to have one overnight visit per week with Alice. In an order entered in October 2019 following an August 2019 hearing, the trial court approved a trial home placement of Alice with respondent-father, with DSS retaining legal custody of the juvenile.

¶ 5 Later in October 2019, however, respondent-father was arrested and charged with twenty-seven counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor involving children spanning the ages of two years to ten years. Upon respondent-father's arrest, Alice was removed from his home and returned to her previous foster home placement. In November 2019, respondent-father was also criminally charged with taking indecent liberties with the child, Alice. He was also charged with the criminal offense of statutory rape of a child under fifteen years old with a different alleged victim. As a result of these charges, sexual abuse by respondent-father upon Alice and an injurious environment for her was subsequently substantiated. After a permanency planning review hearing in December 2019, the trial court ordered reunification efforts to cease. Respondent-father preserved his right to appeal the cease reunification order.

¶ 6 On 16 July 2020, DSS filed a motion to terminate respondent-father's parental rights in which it represented that grounds existed to terminate his parental rights on the grounds of abuse, neglect, willfully leaving the child in foster care without making reasonable progress, and dependency. Respondent-father filed an "Answer/Reply and Motion to Dismiss" on 14 August 2020. The motion to terminate respondent-father's parental rights was heard on 18 February 2021 during the Juvenile Session of District Court, Randolph County. Although the trial court determined that DSS had not met its burden to establish abuse as a basis for the termination of the parental rights of respondent-father, nonetheless the trial court determined that DSS had established grounds to terminate his parental rights based upon neglect, willfully leaving the child in foster care without making reasonable progress, and dependency.

867 S.E.2d 883

The trial court thereafter found that Alice's best interests would be served by termination of respondent-father's parental rights. The termination order was entered on 18 May 2021. Respondent-father appealed both the cease reunification order and the termination order on 16 June 2021.

¶ 7 On 19 October 2021, appellate counsel for respondent-father filed a brief, stating that "[a]fter thoroughly reviewing the court record and the transcripts, the undersigned attorney for [respondent-f]ather can find no...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1 cases
  • In re J.R.F., 36A21
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • February 11, 2022
    ...the juvenile's second prospective adoptive placement was only willing to consider adoption if the first placement did not remain intact.867 S.E.2d 879 ¶ 32 None of the concerns which respondent-father identifies regarding Ronnie's prospective adoptive placements affect the viability of Ronn......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT