The North Carolina Juvenile Code (G.S. Chapter 7B) establishes the substantive law for abuse, neglect, dependency (A/N/D) and termination of parental rights (TPR) actions and also sets forth specific procedures. Although A/N/D and TPR cases are civil proceedings, many of the juvenile procedures differ from the general rules that apply to civil actions. One of the procedural differences applies to the district court’s jurisdiction in the underlying action when an appeal is pending. Continue Reading
A juvenile may be involved with both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. These youth are sometimes referred to as “dual jurisdiction” or “crossover youth.” Two of the ways a juvenile in North Carolina may be involved with both systems is when the juvenile is the subject of a delinquency action, and
- in that action, the court orders the juvenile placed in DSS custody or guardianship (G.S. 7B-1902‒1907; -2506(1)c.; -2001); and/or
- there is also cause to suspect that the juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent, which if substantiated by a county child welfare agency (hereinafter “DSS”) may result in a separate abuse, neglect, or dependency action that the juvenile is the subject of.
Both of these ways applied to one of the very few appellate opinions that address these dual jurisdiction youth: In re K.G., 817 S.E.2d 790 (2018). In that case, K.G. was adjudicated delinquent and placed in DSS custody through an order entered in the delinquency action. DSS then initiated a separate dependency action, which was based largely on the juvenile’s conduct and refusal to live with his parents. In that new action, K.G. was adjudicated dependent. That adjudication was appealed and reversed by the court of appeals, which held the petition failed to allege dependency and stated the juvenile’s willful acts do not determine a parent’s ability to care for their child.
So, when does delinquency result in abuse, neglect, or dependency? Continue Reading
A child has been adjudicated by the district court as abused, neglected, and/or dependent. At the dispositional phase of the case, the trial court determines it is in the child’s best interest to place that child with a relative. In fact, the court is required to give a relative priority when making an out-of-home placement. See G.S. 7B-903(a1). The relative, however, lives in another state. The placement must be made in accordance with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). Id. The Court of Appeals recently addressed whether the ICPC applied to an out-of-state relative placement in In re J.D.M.-J., ___ N.C. App. ___ (June 18, 2018). Continue Reading
The 2018 Legislative Session created and amended various North Carolina statutes affecting child welfare. Some of those changes are effective now and others at later dates. Here are the highlights. Continue Reading
Last year, the Court of Appeals held that only a director (or authorized representative) of a county department of social services (DSS) where the child resided or was found at the time a petition alleging abuse, neglect, or dependency (A/N/D) was filed in court had standing to do so. In re A.P., 800 S.E.2d 77 (2017). Because standing is jurisdictional, when a county DSS without standing commences an A/N/D action, the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to act. Id.; see my earlier blog post discussing this holding here. This holding had an immediate impact on A/N/D cases throughout the state. Because subject matter jurisdiction can be raised at any time, both new and old cases were dismissed either through a voluntary dismissal by DSS or a motion to dismiss filed by another party in the action. After dismissal, new petitions for these same children were filed, sometimes after a child was transported to a county for the purpose of giving the county DSS director standing to commence the action. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) notified county DSS’s that the holding in In re A.P. superseded DHHS policy on conflict of interest cases, recognizing that contrary to the policy, a county DSS with a conflict may be the only county DSS with standing to file an A/N/D action after a partner DSS determines there is a need to file a petition because of abuse, neglect, or dependency. See CWS-28-2017.
Last month, the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals holding, stating the statutory interpretation was too restrictive and contrary to children’s best interests. In re A.P., 812 S.E.2d 840 (2018). Continue Reading
First came the cease reunification efforts shuffle resulting from 2015−2017 statutory changes to the NC Juvenile Code and published appellate decisions interpreting those changes (see my last blog post, here). And now, In re C.P., ___ N.C. App. ___ (March 6, 2018) has created the elimination of reunification as a permanent plan two-step. Continue Reading
NOTE: Since this post was published, S.L. 2018-86 was enacted effective for all initial disposition orders that are effective on or after June 25, 2018. G.S. 7B-901(c) has been amended to add the word “determines” and supersedes the holding of In re G.T., ___ N.C. App. ___, 791 S.E.2d 274 (2016), aff’d per curiam, 370 N.C. 387 (2017). 2018 legislative summaries impacting child welfare are discussed here.
Abuse, neglect, or dependency court proceedings have several different stages, one of which is the dispositional stage. The dispositional stage, which occurs only after a child has been adjudicated abused, neglected, or dependent, has several different types of hearings: initial, review, and permanency planning. During the various dispositional hearings, a court may address reunification efforts, which involve the diligent use of preventive or reunification services by a DSS when a child’s remaining in or returning to the home of a parent is consistent with achieving a safe permanent home for the child within a reasonable period of time. See G.S. 7B-101(18). How a trial court may address reunification efforts, including whether to relieve DSS from making those efforts, differs depending on the type of dispositional hearing. That is what the reunification efforts shuffle is all about. Continue Reading
I am so happy to announce the availability of the 2017 Manual — Abuse, Neglect, Dependency, and Termination of Parental Rights Proceedings in North Carolina.
What’s In It?
This Manual provides easily accessible information about the laws, procedures, and concepts related to abuse, neglect, dependency, and termination of parental rights proceedings in North Carolina. The primary intended audience consists of district court judges, social services attorneys, parents’ attorneys, and guardian ad litem attorney advocates who work in this area of the law.
This 2017 edition is a significant revision of the previous edition (2015) and contains hundreds of pages of new content. It includes changes made to the Juvenile Code by the North Carolina General Assembly in the 2015, 2016, and 2017 sessions as well as appellate decisions published through October 1, 2017. The new content discusses a variety of topics including mandatory concurrent permanency planning, cessation of reasonable efforts and the elimination of reunification as a permanent plan, medical decision-making for a child placed in DSS custody, the reasonable and prudent parent standard, and Foster Care 18−21.
There are nine new checklists that supplement the chapter content and incorporate the legislative changes that apply to the various hearings in abuse, neglect, dependency, and related termination of parental rights proceedings. Before you bypass the chapters to get to the checklists, explore the Manual to see what is in there. Continue Reading
If you’re a sports fan like me, you probably like sports movies. And if you like sports movies, you know the famous line from Jerry Maguire, “show me the money!” That line has some application to abuse, neglect, or dependency cases – specifically when a court is going to order custody or guardianship of a child who has been adjudicated abused, neglected, or dependent to a person who is not the child’s parent. The Juvenile Code requires that the court first verify that the proposed custodian or guardian “will have adequate resources to care appropriately for the juvenile.” G.S. 7B-903(a)(4), -906.1(j), -600(c).* Continue Reading
*SINCE THIS POST WAS PUBLISHED, THE N.C. SUPREME COURT REVERSED AND REMANDED THE COURT OF APPEALS DECISION DISCUSSED BELOW. A new blog post discussing the NC Supreme Court decision can be read here.
Earlier this year, the North Carolina Court of Appeals published In re A.P., 800 S.E.2d 77 (2017), which held that the county DSS that had an open child protective case did not have standing to file a neglect and dependency petition. As a result, the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear the action, and the adjudication and disposition orders were vacated. Since In re A.P. was decided, there are lots of questions about when a county DSS has standing to file an abuse, neglect, or dependency (A/N/D) petition and what happens in conflict of interest cases requiring a case to be transferred to a different county DSS. Continue Reading