Since January 1, 2019, termination of parental rights (TPR) orders are appealed directly to the North Carolina Supreme Court. In August 2019, the Supreme Court published its first appellate opinions under this new TPR appellate procedure. Between August 2019 and today, the Supreme Court has decided 134 TPR opinions, all of which are published. Each of those published opinions from our state’s highest court established or reinforced a precedent. Perhaps because of that, new and old arguments have been raised before the Supreme Court in those TPR appeals. This post focuses on what the Supreme Court has held when addressing the dispositional stage of the TPR. 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The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) notified county DSS’s that the holding in In re A.P. superseded DHHS policy on conflict of interest cases, recognizing that contrary to the policy, a county DSS with a conflict may be the only county DSS with standing to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
We’re back with Episode 5, “The Child’s Voice in Court: The Role of the Guardian ad Litem,” for our Beyond the Bench Season 2 podcast. In this episode, we take a break from our court cases to focus on the child. Find out how the child’s perspective is represented in court, through a guardian ad litem and the child him or herself. Continue Reading
*Since this post was originally published, NC DHHS Division of Social Services has enacted a policy to address the issue of educational stability for children in foster care, which you can access here (see section XIII).
It’s September, which means that children have gone back to school. When the school year starts, most children know which school they are attending. But, a child who has been removed from his home and placed in foster care may not know which school he will be going to. Is it the old school? Is it a new school where the placement is located? If a child experiences multiple placements, does the child change schools each time the placement is in a different school district? Changing schools impacts children. That impact may be even more significant when a child is also experiencing a change in both her home environment and caretaker. As of December 12, 2016, a new federal education law goes into effect that prioritizes educational stability for children in foster care. But educational stability for a child in foster care is something that can be addressed now.