Chapter 7B of the Juvenile Code regarding Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency proceedings sets forth the procedures and protocols for the removal of a child from an “unfit parent.”
North Carolina law Section 7B-906.2(b) requires the Trial Court to include possible reunification of parent and child as part of an initial “permanency plan.”
N.C.G.S. Section 7B-906.1(e)(1) further requires the Court to make formal findings regarding whether it is possible for the removed child or children to be returned (placed) with the parent within six months of the hearing.
In providing for the protection of juvenile children the District Court Judge must necessarily consider their needs, including those providing for permanence, safety, and continuity.
Standards of Removal of Child from Parent
Standards for removal, if and when such is necessary and appropriate, are also set forth in Chapter 7B of the Juvenile Code.
The Courts are charged with the duty to prevent inappropriate or unnecessary separation of parents and their children.
In the event the Trial Court deems it necessary and proper to remove a child from the custody of a parent, those Standards for Removal necessarily require a review hearing formally designated as a Permanency Planning Hearing.
Such Review Hearing must be set within one year (12 months) of the date on which the Initial Order was entered. N.C.G.S. Section 7B-906.1(a)
Concurrent Plans for Permanency
The Trial Court, in considering removal, must adopt something called a concurrent plan.
To that end, there must be both primary and secondary plans over the permanency planning process and stage of the proceedings.
The Court, as is the case in all family law and CPS Child Protective Services matters in North Carolina, considers such issues in light of the best interests of the child or children at issue.
There are six “statutory plans” for permanency as adopted and directed by the North Carolina General Assembly.
Those include things like:
- Reinstatement of Parental Rights
- Reunification with Parent(s)
Duties of the Court
The Trial Court, during the Permanency Planning Hearing, is required to adopt “concurrent permanent plans.”
The Trial Court (the District Court Judge in North Carolina) is mandated to identify both a primary plan and a secondary plan, subject to certain legal exceptions.
Reunification with a parent, either as a primary or secondary plan, is required including written findings of fact indicating:
- Efforts toward reunification would be consistent/inconsistent with the safety or health of the minor child (juvenile) OR
- Reunification efforts would clearly be unsuccessful
The Court is also required to Order the Department of Social Services (within the county of the issue) to make efforts to finalize the primary and secondary permanent plans.
The Court may additionally specify efforts that are reasonable to achieve permanence for the juvenile in a timely manner.
In Re N.A.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals, in the unpublished opinion In Re N.A. (2021-NCCOA-2), addresses the issue of Findings relative to a primary and secondary permanency plan.
Therein the Court affirms that the NC Juvenile Code (NCGS Chapter 7B) equires the trial court to include reunification when it determines the Permanent Plan for the first time as either a primary or secondary plan.
Writing on behalf of the Court, Judge J. Hampson makes clear,
Reunification must be part of an initial permanent plan.
The General Assembly in Chapter 7B requires, regarding a reunification plan, “presupposes” a prior concurrent plan existing including reunification.
As part of the initial permanency plan, reunification is required and is not otherwise limited by procedural circumstances.
Therefore, if there has been no prior concurrent plan including reunification with a parent, a Permanency Plan Hearing must necessarily include, at least in part, reunification as part of the permanent plan.
A parent may be deemed, as a matter of law and fact, not a fit or proper to provide for the control of the juvenile, custody, or care of the juvenile child(ren).
If reunification has not previously been a primary or secondary aspect of the Court’s consideration, the Court must thereafter do so.
N.C.G.S. Section 7B-906.1(e)(1) mandates the Trial Court, in legal proceedings where the parent is not reunified with the juvenile child, make findings regarding whether or not it’s possible for the juvenile to be placed with a parent (within six months).
The Court, as part of any such finding(s) must also set forth with some level of specificity why, considering the juvenile’s Best Interests, cannot be returned to the parent.
Charlotte Family Law Attorneys – Powers Law Firm PA
Family Court matters, including those within the Court’s jurisdiction under Chapter 7B of the Juvenile Code, deserve careful consideration of the law and facts.
Family law issues involving juvenile children, we believe, are best reviewed holistically. Chapter 50 Divorce Proceedings in Charlotte involving DSS merit close scrutiny – Child Protective Services – Bill Powers, Charlotte Divorce Lawyer
If you have legal questions about your rights and duties as a parent, specifically those involving Best Interest issues, please call the divorce lawyers and family law attorneys at Powers Law Firm PA.
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