Tag: department of social services
  • Medical Appointments, Consents, and Children in DSS Custody

    In North Carolina, a juvenile who is the subject of an abuse, neglect, or dependency petition may be placed in the custody of a Department of Social Services (DSS). When DSS has a court order of custody, it places a child outside of the child’s home, often in a licensed foster home or in the home of a relative or other placement provider. Here at the School of Government (SOG), we are often asked whether North Carolina law authorizes foster parents (or the child’s placement providers) to consent to health services for the children in DSS custody who are placed in providers’ homes. Spoiler: the answer is “no.” If foster parents or placement providers cannot consent to medical care for the children in their home, must the person whose consent is required (e.g., a DSS caseworker) attend and give consent at every appointment for every child who is in DSS custody? This blog post, co-authored by SOG faculty Kirsten Leloudis and Sara DePasquale, addresses these questions. Continue Reading

  • Guardians: Don’t Forget to File a Notice of Change of Address with the Court

    Adult guardianship law in North Carolina underwent several significant changes effective January 1, 2024. My colleague, Timothy Heinle, and I previously blogged about two of these changes resulting from Session Law 2023-124, available here (notice of rights) and here (less restrictive alternatives). One change that may have slipped under your radar is found in G.S. 35A-1242(e) and imposes a new obligation on guardians to file a notice of change of address with the court.

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  • Transportation of High-Risk Juveniles in DSS Custody: The New G.S. 7B-905.2

    Children and teens who are in the custody of DSS are (or have been alleged to be) abused, neglected, and/or dependent. While in out-of-home placements, these children experience (1) ongoing separation from their families and communities (e.g., parents, siblings, school), (2) losses (relationships, pets, their home), (3) unpredictability (parent behavior at visits), and (4) uncertainty (placement transitions, caseworker turnover). Not surprisingly, these children have a significantly higher rate (up to 80%) of mental health issues than children who are not involved with child welfare (18-22%).[1] Compounding this situation is the lack of appropriate placements for children in DSS custody.[2] Concerns about DSS safely transporting children in its custody to placements when those children have significant mental health needs has arisen. Addressing transportation concerns, the NC General Assembly in the 2023 Appropriations Act enacted G.S. 7B-905.2: “Transportation of High-Risk Juveniles,” effective retroactively to July 1, 2023. See S.L. 2023-134, sec. 9J.13.

    G.S. 7B-905.2 is limited in scope and should not be relied upon 1) for any and all transportation issues for juveniles in DSS custody or 2) for transporting juveniles who are not in DSS custody but have behavioral issues. This post discusses when G.S. 7B-905.2 applies, what it allows, and what it does not. Continue Reading

  • When Child Abuse or Neglect Ends in a Fatality, What Does the Public Have a Right to Know?

    Every year, county departments of social services investigate thousands of reports of child abuse and neglect across North Carolina. Tragically, some of those cases of abuse or neglect end in the death of a child. After one of these fatalities occurs, concerned citizens, public officials, and members of the media often have questions about the circumstances leading up to the fatality.  The public often wants to understand whether a county department of social services (DSS) was involved with the child, and if so, whether more could have been done to prevent the child’s death. Though child protective services information is highly confidential, a North Carolina statute gives any member of the public a right to request and receive specific information after certain child fatalities and near fatalities. This blog post discusses the responsibilities of public agencies to disclose information under this statute, G.S. 7B-2902. Continue Reading

  • Change is Coming: The Consideration of Less Restrictive Alternatives in Adult Guardianship Proceedings Mandated by S.L. 2023-124

    Significant changes are on the way for individuals, legal practitioners, and public officials involved in North Carolina incompetency and adult guardianship proceedings. The recently enacted Session Law 2023-124 mandates the consideration of less restrictive alternatives (LRAs) to guardianship prior to an adjudication of incompetency. There is a lot to cover on this topic; more than can fit in a single blog post. As a result, this post will focus on (i) introducing the statutory changes brought about by this new law and (ii) highlighting some key things the parties and the court will need to do differently with respect to petitions filed on or after January 1, 2024. S.L. 2023-124, sec. 7.13.

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  • 2023 Child Welfare Legislative Changes

    As the 2023 Legislative Session continues, many session laws that amend child welfare statutes, including abuse, neglect, dependency; termination of parental rights (TPR); adoption of a minor; and foster care licensing became effective on various dates. Some of these changes are significant. Some session laws focus on specific statutory changes involving an individual juvenile or family; other session laws make changes to state systems. Continue Reading

  • S.L. 2023-106: Parents’ Rights, Who Is a Parent, and Juvenile Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Cases

    This blog was updated on October 3, 2023 to incorporate amendments made by the 2023 Appropriations Act (S.L. 2023-134). The changes are in italics.

    On August 16th, the legislature used an override of the Governor’s veto to pass S.L. 2023-106 (S49), a law enumerating the rights of parents regarding their children’s education, health care, and mental health needs. But in addressing a parent’s rights, the law contains some exceptions when the child is alleged to be abused, neglected, or dependent. Notably, the new law defines “parent” as “any person with legal custody of a child, including a natural or adoptive parent or legal guardian.” In cases where a department of social services (DSS) has filed a petition alleging a juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent, DSS may obtain custody of the juvenile, or the court may ultimately award legal custody or guardianship to a person who is not the juvenile’s parent. As a result, the new law impacts abuse, neglect, and dependency cases. This post discusses the new law as it relates to abuse, neglect, and dependency cases only and is not a comprehensive discussion of the new law generally. Continue Reading

  • UCCJEA: Transitioning from Temporary Emergency Jurisdiction to Home State Jurisdiction in A/N/D Cases

    The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) governs a state’s subject matter jurisdiction to hear child custody cases, including abuse, neglect, dependency (A/N/D), and termination of parent rights (TPR). See G.S. 50A-102(4); 50A-106. Without following the jurisdictional requirements of the UCCJEA, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Any orders entered when a court lacks subject matter jurisdiction are void ab initio. In re T.R.P., 360 N.C. 588 (2006). I receive numerous inquiries about the UCCJEA in A/N/D cases. A common question involves North Carolina’s use of temporary emergency jurisdiction and whether it ever becomes initial custody jurisdiction when North Carolina becomes the juvenile’s “home state” after the A/N/D petition has been filed in district court. Earlier this month, the court of appeals answered this question when it published In re N.B., ___ N.C. App. ___ (July 5, 2023). This blog serves as a follow up to my previous blog post about temporary emergency jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. Continue Reading

  • The Relationship Between Juvenile Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency, and the Responsible Individual’s List

    Imagine a Department of Social Services (DSS) receives a report alleging a juvenile was abused by her father. Following an investigation, DSS substantiates the report. At this point, does placing the father on the Responsible Individual’s List (RIL) have anything to do with the decision to file (or not) a juvenile abuse, neglect, dependency (AND) petition? Let’s explore the interplay between these two actions.

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  • The State of Post-Petition Evidence in A/N/D Adjudicatory Hearings

    An adjudicatory hearing in an abuse, neglect, or dependency action is “a judicial process designed to adjudicate the existence or nonexistence of any of the conditions alleged in the petition.” G.S. 7B-802. The conditions refer to whether the juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent. Because of the statutory language of G.S. 7B-802, the general rule created by the appellate courts is that post-petition evidence is not considered at an adjudicatory hearing. However, the court of appeals has stated this rule is “not absolute.” In re V.B., 239 N.C. App. 340, 344 (2015). In the last several years, the court of appeals has carved out 3 exceptions to the rule that allow for post-petition evidence: (1) a neglect adjudication when there is a long period of separation between the child and parent before the petition is filed, (2) dependency adjudications, and (3) evidence of fixed and ongoing circumstances, such as paternity and mental illness. In November 2022, the North Carolina Supreme Court in In re L.N.H., 382 N.C. 536 (2022) addressed one of those exceptions, the dependency adjudication exception, and determined the court of appeals exception was error. So, what is the rule regarding post-petition evidence? It’s a little murky now. Continue Reading

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