Although the 2019 Legislative Session has not yet adjourned, there have been changes made to the abuse, neglect, dependency and termination of parental rights statutes in the Juvenile Code (G.S. Chapter 7B). The changes discussed below are already effective as law. There may be more changes to come given that the legislature has not adjourned. For now, here are key highlights of the changes to the Juvenile Code related to child welfare. Continue Reading
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
My colleague, Sara DePasquale, and I were excited to release a new Juvenile Law Bulletin two weeks ago—Delinquency and DSS Custody without Abuse, Neglect, or Dependency: How Does that Work? We were also exhausted. While the laws that allow for courts to order juveniles into DSS custody in a delinquency proceeding are short, their implications are broad and complex. Sara’s blog announcing the bulletin, Extra! Extra! Read All About It! New Juvenile Law Bulletin – Delinquency and DSS Custody without Abuse, Neglect, or Dependency: How Does that Work?, provides some suggestions about reading the bulletin in bite-sized chunks. Now that readers have had a chance to do that, let’s focus on a few of the key points for delinquency practitioners.
- the proceeding remains a delinquency proceeding although the juvenile is in the custody of DSS;
- the only attorney who will represent a juvenile placed in DSS custody through a delinquency proceeding is the juvenile’s counsel in the delinquency matter;
- termination of probation does not automatically terminate DSS custody; and
- implementation of the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. “raise the age”) could result in a new challenge for DSS placements.
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
I have had the pleasure of working here at the School of Government for eight months now. In that time I have gotten some interesting questions about North Carolina’s delinquency laws. Most often, those questions relate to the confidentiality of juvenile court records. When I first read the statute – G.S. 7B-3000 – I thought it was an open and shut case. Unless you are on the list of people allowed access without a court order, access can only be allowed pursuant to a court order. But then the questions started to come in. Who exactly is the juvenile’s attorney under this statute? Can any prosecutor access juvenile records any time? Can a federal court order disclosure of a North Carolina juvenile record? On what basis can courts order release of juvenile records? It turns out that it’s not open and shut at all. Here is what I have learned so far. Continue Reading
On January 1, 2019, the process to appeal abuse, neglect, dependency (A/N/D) and termination of parental rights (TPR) orders designated in G.S. 7B-1001 changed significantly. Amendments to G.S. 7B-1001 now require that some orders be appealed directly to the NC Supreme Court, bypassing the Court of Appeals (COA). Other orders have new notice of appeal and timing requirements. Amendments to the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure (Rules) also became effective on January 1st and impact appeals of all orders including those designated in G.S. 7B-1001.
Last week, I attended the Supreme Court’s CLE program, “Information about Termination of Parental Rights Cases and the Rules of Appellate Procedure.” As I listened to the justices and other speakers, I started to hear David Bowie singing “ch-ch-ch-changes.” There are a lot of changes and procedures that you need to know. 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
Since this post was published, the NC General Assembly enacted S.L. 2019-33, effective Oct. 1, 2019. Amendments include removal of the words “remain” and “subsequent” in the statutes addressing permanency planning.
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