Subchapter I of G.S. Chapter 7B (the Juvenile Code) governs child abuse, neglect, dependency, and termination of parental rights cases in North Carolina. The Juvenile Code “sets out a sequential process for abuse, neglect, or dependency cases, wherein each required action or event must occur within a prescribed amount of time after the preceding stage in the case.” In re T.R.P., 360 N.C. 588, 593 (2006). Included in the statutory time frames are the timing for entry of orders. What exactly does the Juvenile Code require? And, why does it matter? Continue Reading
Within North Carolina, the appropriate location of a district court where an abuse neglect or dependency (A/N/D) action is filed is a matter of venue. GS 7B-400. And the appropriate location of the district court where a termination of parental rights (TPR) action is filed is a matter of jurisdiction. GS 7B-1101. Why are they different? Because the statutes governing A/N/D and TPR proceedings have different requirements and impose different limitations on the parties and the court.
The General Assembly has the power to “fix and circumscribe the jurisdiction of the courts,” which can require certain procedures. In re T.R.P., 360 N.C. 588, 590 (2006). A/N/D and TPR cases are statutory in nature and set forth specific requirements that must be followed. Id. In an A/N/D or TPR action, the first place to look is the Juvenile Code (GS Chapter 7B) because it establishes both the procedures and substantive law for these types of juvenile proceedings. See GS 7B-100; -1100. Continue Reading
This will be the last On the Civil Side blog post for 2016. We will be back on January 11, 2017. That gives you plenty of time to listen to Episode 4, “The Case Plan: In and Out of Court,” for our Beyond the Bench Season 2 podcast, available now!
This episode picks up where episode 3 ended. There’s been an adjudication of child neglect and an initial disposition order entered by the court. Now the family and department are engaged in case planning. The court is monitoring the progress and ultimately deciding what the final goals for the family are through periodic review and permanency planning hearings. Find out what’s involved both in and out of court. Continue Reading
In 1978, Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). 25 U.S.C. §§ 1901 – 1963. Through ICWA, Congress declared
it is the policy of this Nation to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children from their families and the placement of such children in foster or adoptive homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture….
25 U.S.C. § 1902.
For the first time since its passage, ICWA now has federal regulations that states must follow. 25 CFR Part 23. One of the purposes of these new regulations is to ensure the consistent application of ICWA protections across the states. 25 CFR 23.101. The regulations become effective on December 12th and apply to all “child custody proceedings” and “emergency proceedings” starting on or after that date. 25 CFR 23.103, 23.143. Continue Reading
*This post was updated on August 1, 2016 to reflect the Session Law for H424.
The 2016 Appropriations Act (S.L. 2016-94) addresses more than the State’s budget. Section 12.C makes substantive changes to the General Statutes in Chapter 7B that govern abuse, neglect, or dependency proceedings. The statutory amendments became effective on July 1st. In addition, S.L. 2016-115 (H424), creates a new criminal statute, “The Unlawful Transfer of Custody of a Minor Child,” and is effective for offenses committed on or after December 1, 2016. The law also amends the definition of a neglected juvenile in G.S. Chapter 7B. Continue Reading
This Sunday is Father’s Day, a day that celebrates fathers. It’s the perfect time to announce my new book, Fathers and Paternity: Applying the Law in North Carolina Child Welfare Cases. The book recognizes the role of fathers in abuse, neglect, or dependency cases. Put simply, they have a role. Fathers are necessary parties to the court proceeding. See G.S. 7B-401.1(b). Fathers impact a child’s placement, visitation, and permanent plan.
Unfortunately, every child does not have a father who has been identified by a marital presumption, acknowledgment, or judicial determination of paternity. Even when a father has been identified, his paternity has not necessarily been established, which allows for it to be challenged. The uncertainty in knowing who a child’s father may or may not be has resulted in cases where no father is named or the wrong man is named as a respondent father in the court action. Continue Reading
I recently finished a 2-day course for district court judges that focused on children with significant mental health needs. There were lots of questions about the admission and discharge process for a child who is in a county department’s (DSS) custody and who needs treatment in a psychiatric residential treatment facility (PRTF). It’s complicated because there are two separate but simultaneously occurring court actions:
- the abuse, neglect, or dependency (A/N/D) action that addresses a child’s custody, placement, and services; and
- the judicial review of a child’s voluntary admission to a secure psychiatric treatment facility that was made with the consent of the child’s legally responsible person.
The two actions involve different parties, courts, purposes, and laws, and they are often not coordinated even though they directly impact each other. Continue Reading
Sara DePasquale wrote a blog on the Role of a Foster Parent in the A/N/D Court Action, which prompted me to explore the role of non-parents, and specifically their right to representation.
Prior to the filing of an abuse, neglect and dependency (A/N/D) petition, the child may be in the care of grandparents, other relatives or friends. They are providing support and maintenance and making daily decisions about the health and welfare of the child. This may be more permanent substitute care compared to the temporary care provided by a foster parent.
Once the petition is filed each parent named in the petition is appointed provisional counsel pursuant to G.S. 7B-602. But what about non-parents? The relative or friend who has custody of or is caring for the child may meet the statutory definition of “caretaker” or “custodian”. See G.S. 7B-101. Also, the child may have a court appointed guardian [G.S.7B-600; G.S. 35A-1202(7) & (10)] at the time the petition is filed. Does the caretaker, custodian or guardian have a right to court appointed counsel if they are indigent? Continue Reading
For the last 15 years, there has been an increased awareness of human trafficking in the U.S. That awareness has resulted in various federal and state laws seeking both to prevent human trafficking and protect the victims of human trafficking. See Trafficking Victims and Protection Act of 2000, 22 U.S.A. Chapter 78 (reauthorized in 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2013). Today’s post recognizes that January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and discusses recent federal laws and accompanying state policy that focus on identifying and providing services to children who are in foster care and are victims of sex trafficking. Continue Reading
*For more information about this new law, see the following supplemental book chapter, Suspected Child Maltreatment Occurring in a Child Care Facility, to the book, Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect in North Carolina. Both the supplemental chapter and book are available electronically and for free.
It seems fitting that the first blog post of the 2016 calendar year addresses a new law that became effective on January 1st. S.L. 2015-123 is “An Act to Transition Abuse and Neglect Investigations in Child Care Facilities to the Division of Child Development and Early Education [DCDEE] within the Department of Health and Human Services” (DHHS). In a nutshell, county child welfare agencies (county departments) retain responsibility for screening and assessing reports of suspected child abuse, neglect, and dependency by a parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker but are no longer responsible for screening and assessing reports of suspected abuse and neglect of a child in a child care facility. As a result, petitions filed in district court by a county department that allege a child has been abused or neglected will no longer be based on circumstances created in a child care facility. Instead, the DCDEE has assumed responsibility for investigating suspected child maltreatment occurring in a child care facility. These investigations are a component of NCDEE’s licensure procedures and requirements. S.L. 2015-123 sets forth the new process in Article 7 of G.S. Chapter 110.Continue Reading
- routine medical and dental care;
- emergency medical, surgical, or mental health care;
- testing and evaluation in exigent circumstances, and
- a Child Medical Evaluation (CME).
What about Medical Care that Is neither Routine nor an Emergency? Continue Reading
Through S.L. 2015-136, “An Act to Make Various Changes to the Juvenile Laws Pertaining to Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency,” the General Assembly enacted G.S. 7B-505.1 and G.S. 7B-903.1(e).These two new statutes address medical decision-making authority for a child who is placed in a county department’s custody through an order entered in an abuse, neglect, and dependency action. These new laws apply to all abuse, neglect, and dependency actions that were pending on or filed after October 1, 2015. Continue Reading
On October 1, 2015, several new statutes affecting abuse, neglect, and dependency cases went into effect. Three new statutes specifically address decision-making standards related to social and cultural activities for children who are placed in a county department’s custody because of abuse, neglect, or dependency. The new statutes were created by S.L. 2015-135 and are
- G.S. 131D-10.2A: Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard,
- G.S. 7B-903.1: Juvenile Placed in Custody of Department of Social Services, and
- G.S. 48A-4: Certain Minors Competent to Contract.
A foster parent provides substitute care for a child who has been separated from his or her family because of abuse, neglect or dependency. G.S. 131D-10.2(9a);10A NCAC 70B.0101. When a parent, relative, guardian, or custodian is unable to care for a child, a foster parent is a critical part of a county department’s plan for arranging for the child’s immediate and temporary safety. Foster parents are likely to have relevant information that will assist a court in determining what is in the child’s best interests. Foster parents may also be interested in adopting a child who has been placed in their care. Does a foster parent have a right to participate in the court proceeding?Continue Reading
If the juvenile court or county department intends to place a child in an abuse, neglect, and dependency (A/N/D) case with a parent who lives outside of North Carolina, does the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) apply? Continue Reading
This post was amended to reflect changes made to the definition of caretaker that occurred after the post was published by section 1 of S.L. 2015-123* (effective January 1, 2016) and Section 12C.1.(d). of S.L. 2016-94, effective July 1, 2016**
In North Carolina, abuse, neglect, and dependency cases determine the child’s status as abused, neglected, or dependent by examining the child’s circumstances rather than determining the fault or culpability of a parent. In re Montgomery, 311 N.C. 101 (1984). In determining a child’s status, social services agencies and trial courts must look at the statutory definitions of abuse, neglect, and dependency. G.S. 7B-101(1), (15), (9). These definitions require the social services agencies and courts to determine who created the child’s circumstances. In abuse and neglect cases, was it the child’s parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker? In dependency cases, was it the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian? If the child’s circumstances were not caused by a parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker, the child is not abused, neglect, or dependent. A court order establishes the relationship of guardian [G.S. 7B-600; G.S. 35A-1202 & Article 6] or custodian [G.S. 7B-101(8)] to a child, but who is a caretaker? Continue Reading
You are appointed to represent a juvenile in a delinquency proceeding. The petition alleges the juvenile assaulted his stepfather. When you meet with your client, he discloses that his stepfather has been beating him for years. This time, his stepfather went after his younger sister, and your client tried to protect her. In another case, you are hired to represent a father in a child custody action. Your client tells you that he just moved out of the home, where his baby and the baby’s mother live. He discloses that the mother has a drinking problem and frequently attacks him physically when she is intoxicated, sometimes while she is holding the baby. He also tells you that he has come home from work to find the baby is in dirty diapers and crying in the crib while the mother is passed out on the couch.Continue Reading
Last month the U.S. Supreme Court decided Ohio v. Clark, 135 S.Ct. 2173 (2015). The Court determined whether a teacher’s testimony of a child’s statements to her was barred by the Confrontation Clause. My colleague, Jessica Smith, wrote a blog post about the holding and its impact in criminal cases. But, what about the world of child protective services? Continue Reading
Spoiler Alert !! Effective June 2, 2015, amendments were made to G.S. 7B-504.
*This post was amended on January 29, 2016 to add Rule 45 (subpoena) and on February 22, 2017 to specifically reference Rule 12(b)(3)
Have you ever felt like you’re playing a game of one potato, two potato when figuring out if a Rule of Civil Procedure applies to your abuse, neglect, dependency, or termination of parental rights action? Let me provide you with a guide instead. Continue Reading
*Note this post has been amended to reflect the December 2015 recodification of the SCRA
Earlier posts address the SCRA in family law actions and non-judicial foreclosures. It’s my turn to address the SCRA’s application to abuse, neglect, dependency (A/N/D), and termination of parental rights (TPR) actions.
When and Why Does the SCRA Apply?
The SCRA applies to any judicial or administrative proceeding, except for criminal proceedings. 50 U.S.C. § 3912(b). There is no exception for A/N/D or TPR actions, which are “child custody’ proceedings. G.S. 50A-102(4). Child custody proceedings are specifically referenced in the SCRA. 50 U.S.C. § 3931(a) and -3932(a). Continue Reading
Who signs an A/N/D/ petition and whether it is properly verified determines if the court has subject matter jurisdiction over the proceeding. Without subject matter jurisdiction, the court has no authority to act and any judgment entered is void. In re T.R.P., 360 N.C. 588 (2006). Because subject matter jurisdiction can be raised at any time, even for the first time on appeal, and it cannot be waived or consented to, a county could discover weeks, months, or years after the action is commenced that all its orders in the action are void. This is problematic for many reasons.