In re P.T.W.

Citation794 S.E.2d 843,250 N.C.App. 589
Decision Date06 December 2016
Docket NumberNo. COA16–632,COA16–632
CourtNorth Carolina Court of Appeals
Parties In the MATTER OF P.T.W., d.o.b.: 4/7/2013

Wake County Attorney's Office, by Deputy County Attorney Roger A. Askew and Senior Assistant County Attorney Allison Pope Cooper, for Wake County Human Services.

Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate Defender J. Lee Gilliam, for RespondentAppellant Mother.

McGEE, Chief Judge.

K.W. ("RespondentMother") appeals an order entered 31 August 2015 ceasing reunification efforts ("CRO") and an order entered 18 April 2016 terminating her parental rights ("TPR order"). After careful review, we affirm.

I. Background

RespondentMother's sixth child, P.T.W., was born on 7 April 2013. RespondentMother received no prenatal care throughout her pregnancy, and P.T.W. was born with a medical condition that caused his intestines to be outside his body. As a result, P.T.W. required multiple corrective surgeries and remained in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Wake Medical Center ("WMC") until 15 May 2013. At the time of P.T.W.’s birth, RespondentMother did not have custody of any of her five other children.

Wake County Human Services Child Protective Services ("WCHS") received an assist request from Vance County Department of Social Services ("VCDSS") on 22 April 2013 reporting conditions that had led to the removal of RespondentMother's five other children from her custody. The report cited RespondentMother's confirmed alcohol and drug abuse, past threats to harm her children, and sustained lack of employment. WMC staff later informed WCHS that, prior to the 22 April 2013 report, RespondentMother

had been inconsistent with visit[ing P.T.W.] at the hospital, reported not having supplies for the baby, and was not prepared to provide appropriate care for her special needs infant. In addition ... [RespondentMother] appeared to have slurred speech and oppositional behaviors when talking to [WMC] staff, indicative of substance abuse.

At WMC, RespondentMother identified Lynn Williams ("Williams") as P.T.W.’s father, but subsequently informed a WCHS social worker that she was unsure of P.T.W.’s paternity. DNA testing later confirmed Williams as P.T.W.’s father.1 RespondentMother told WCHS she had recently secured her own housing, but could not afford to have the electricity turned on.

WCHS filed a juvenile petition on 3 May 2013 alleging P.T.W. was dependent and in need of alternative placement by the State. WCHS was given non-secure custody of P.T.W. that same day.

RespondentMother appeared at a child planning conference on 9 May 2013. WCHS recommended that RespondentMother "complete a mental health assessment and a substance abuse assessment and follow all recommendations, ... obtain/maintain stable and suitable housing and lawful income sufficient to meet the needs of her family, and follow the court orders from Vance County." RespondentMother reported she had obtained full-time employment and had completed her case plan with VCDSS. WCHS also recommended that RespondentMother be granted a one-hour supervised visit with P.T.W. once a week.

RespondentMother underwent a mental health assessment on 24 May 2013 that resulted in a diagnosis of Adult Antisocial and Antisocial Personality Disorder

. She also submitted to a substance abuse assessment on 3 June 2013 and was diagnosed with "Alcohol Abuse in partial remission." RespondentMother alleged that, on or around 1 June 2013, Williams slammed her against a wall and threatened to kill her. RespondentMother was granted an ex parte domestic violence protective order ("DVPO") against Williams on or around 3 June 2013.

Following a review hearing on 12 June 2013, P.T.W. was adjudicated dependent by order entered 25 June 2013. The trial court ordered that RespondentMother

a) continue to show proof of stable and suitable housing and lawful income to meet the needs of the child; b) complete a psychological evaluation and follow all recommendations; c) follow the recommendations of her substance [abuse] assessment by complying with random drug/alcohol screens; d) demonstrate knowledge learned from anger management and parenting classes in her social interactions and life choices and take a parenting class for infants and toddlers; e) complete SafeChild MOVE [Mothers Overcoming Violence through Education and Empowerment] program and demonstrate knowledge learned; [and] f) maintain contact with WCHS and notify the agency of any change in situation or circumstance within [five] business days.

The court ordered that RespondentMother receive at least one hour a week of supervised visitation with P.T.W., and that WCHS "continue to make reasonable efforts to eliminate the need for placement of [P.T.W.] outside the home."

In August 2013, the trial court approved placement of P.T.W. with Letha Richardson ("Richardson"), RespondentMother's cousin. However, multiple attempts by WCHS to contact Richardson about placing P.T.W. were unsuccessful and P.T.W. remained in WCHS custody. RespondentMother moved from Raleigh to Lillington, in Harnett County, on 3 September 2013. At the request of VCDSS, Harnett County Department of Social Services ("HCDSS") conducted a home study of RespondentMother's residence in Lillington. HCDSS informed VCDSS that it did not recommend placement of RespondentMother's children with her as of 27 November 2013.2 RespondentMother moved to Fuquay–Varina, in Wake County, in January 2014.

Between August 2013 and July 2015, the trial court held approximately eight review hearings to evaluate RespondentMother's compliance with P.T.W.’s case plan and WCHS's continuing efforts at reunification. Following a hearing on 16 May 2014, the trial court found that, since February 2014, RespondentMother had missed five of eleven scheduled visits with P.T.W. and, during the visits she did make, she was "not able to demonstrate skills taught in her parenting class." The trial court further found RespondentMother "d[id] not recognize how her mental health problems ... affect her ability to parent, and ha[d] not really begun any therapy as ordered." It further found RespondentMother had not "demonstrated that she can control her anger, as she continue[d] to demonstrate impulsive tendencies, making derogatory statements to ... her therapist, foster parents, and social workers." Additionally, the court found RespondentMother "continue[d] to have contact with [Williams] despite a DVPO that [was] in place and ... had ... call[ed] the police for [Williams] violating the order." The court ordered WCHS to cease reunification efforts with respect to Williams, but "continue to make reasonable efforts to work towards the reunification of [P.T.W.] with [RespondentMother]."

At a hearing on 4 November 2014, the trial court found RespondentMother had (1) completed several court-ordered services, (2) enrolled herself in an anger management class, (3) demonstrated a better attitude in working with WCHS, (4) secured suitable housing in Fuquay–Varina, (5) obtained two part-time jobs, (6) had not had any positive drug screens, and (7) was "complying with the treatment recommendations of her psychological [assessment]." The court further found that if RespondentMother "continue[d] the progress in correcting the conditions which led to [P.T.W.’s] removal, it [would] be possible for the Court to return [P.T.W.] to a safe environment with her in the next [six] months."

At a hearing on 17 December 2014, based on RespondentMother's continued progress, the trial court granted her two hours a week of unsupervised visitation with P.T.W. Following a hearing on 28 January 2015, the trial court increased RespondentMother's visitation with P.T.W. to one twenty-four hour unsupervised visit a week.

Several weeks later, VCDSS informed WCHS that RespondentMother's five-year-old child had reported witnessing RespondentMother engaging in a sexual act with RespondentMother's oldest son. Upon receiving this information, WCHS reinstated supervised visitation between RespondentMother and P.T.W. RespondentMother filed a motion for review of the change in visitation on 13 April 2015. Following a hearing on 6 May 2015, the trial court found RespondentMother's behavior during visits with P.T.W. had become "inappropriate"3 and that she had "presented zero evidence ... that remotely show[ed] that [P.T.W.] would be safe in her care." The court suspended RespondentMother's visitation with P.T.W. "indefinitely." RespondentMother moved to Farmville, in Pitt County, on or about 22 May 2015.

WCHS submitted a court summary on 14 July 2015 in which it recommended that the trial court cease reunification efforts with RespondentMother and change the permanent plan for P.T.W. to adoption. Following a review hearing on 22 July 2015, the trial court ceased reunification efforts by order entered 31 August 2015. The trial court concluded that reunification efforts with RespondentMother would be inconsistent with P.T.W.’s "safety and need for a safe home within a reasonable time," and ordered WCHS to "make reasonable efforts aimed at achieving a permanent plan of adoption."

WCHS filed a petition to terminate RespondentMother's parental rights with respect to P.T.W. on 9 October 2015. WCHS alleged that RespondentMother had "willfully abandoned [P.T.W.] for at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the Petition." Following a review hearing on 3–4 March 2016, the trial court terminated RespondentMother's parental rights by order entered 18 April 2016. RespondentMother appeals both the CRO and TPR order.4

II. Sufficiency of CRO Findings
A. Standard of Review

RespondentMother first argues that certain "crucial" findings of fact in the trial court's CRO were not supported by the evidence and, as a result, the totality of the evidence did not support the trial court's ultimate finding that reunification efforts "would be inconsistent with [P.T.W.’s] safety and...

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12 cases
  • In re J.C.
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals
    • May 18, 2021
    ..."Competent evidence is evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the finding." In re P.T.W. , 250 N.C. App. 589, 594, 794 S.E.2d 843, 848 (2016). "The [trial] court may consider any evidence, including hearsay evidence[,] that the [trial] court finds to be relevant......
  • In re S.R.J.T.
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals
    • April 6, 2021
    ...which state continued efforts would be unsuccessful or inconsistent with the children's health or safety. See In re P.T.W. , 250 N.C. App. 589, 595, 794 S.E.2d 843, 848 (2016) ; In re D.A. , 258 N.C. App. at 253, 811 S.E.2d at 733-34. ¶ 38 Mother asserts the trial court erred and abused its......
  • In re J.M.
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals
    • April 6, 2021 which state continued efforts would be unsuccessful or inconsistent with the children's health or safety. In re P.T.W. , 250 N.C. App. 589, 595, 794 S.E.2d 843, 848 (2016) ; In re D.A. , 258 N.C. App at 253, 811 S.E.2d at 733-34. The trial court's order, DSS's evaluation, and the Guardi......
  • State v. Mendoza
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals
    • December 6, 2016
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