By the time the trial court entered its permanency planning order, the Texas interstate compact placement of children study had expired for “Terry’s” paternal grandparents. However, G.S. § 7B-903(a1) requires that, before placing a child outside the home at the permanency planning stage, the trial court must first consider placing the child with his relatives unless the court finds that such a placement is not in the child’s best interests. The trial court failed to give the required statutory priority for Terry’s placement in the home with his paternal grandmother and step-grandfather.
We vacate the permanency planning order and remand for further proceedings and findings in conformity with the familial priority mandates of the statute.
Our General Statutes do not specifically list a step-cousin as a legally recognized relative. The respondent-mother’s step-cousin and step-cousin-in-law have not shown that they are “individual[s] directly related to the juvenile by blood, marriage, or adoption,” G.S. § 7B-101(18a), and they do not have a legally recognized statutory priority for consideration of permanency placement of Terry.
In re T.M. (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-339-22, 7 pp.) (John Tyson, J.) Appealed from Stokes County District Court (Thomas Langan, J.) Jennifer Oakley Michaud for petitioner; James Freeman for guardian ad litem; Jacky Brammer for respondent. 2022-NCCOA-543-