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Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Termination of Parental Rights – Late Progress

The fact that the respondent-father began substance abuse treatment prior to the filing of the motion to terminate his parental rights did not prevent the trial court from finding that he had willfully failed to make progress on his case plan.

We affirm the termination of respondent’s parental rights.

A parent’s extremely limited progress in correcting the conditions leading to removal adequately supports termination of parental rights under G.S. § 7B-1111(a)(2). Though respondent had made “significant progress toward his substance abuse” since 29 March 2021, the court found this progress had “not been within a reasonable amount of time given” that “Alan” had been in Youth and Family Services’ (YFS’s) custody since 27 January 2020. Additionally, the court found that even considering respondent’s recent progress, he had a documented history of “relapses and overdoses” during the time Alan had been in YFS custody, and respondent was “in the beginning stages” of sobriety.

Moreover, the court found that respondent had failed to make any progress on the other requirements of his case plan. Although the residential rehabilitation program limited respondent’s ability to address other parts of his case plan, respondent’s limited progress on remedying his substance abuse does not rebut his failure to address those other requirements.

We reject respondent’s assertion that his progress was reasonable because it began prior to YFS filing the motion to terminate his parental rights. Nothing in our case law suggests that the filing date of a motion or petition to terminate parental rights is a bright-line demarcation between reasonable progress and unreasonable progress. Respondent’s progress is not de facto reasonable just because it began approximately two weeks before YFS filed the motion to terminate his parental rights.

Regardless of when it began, extremely limited progress is not reasonable progress. Similarly, respondent’s delay in beginning to address his substance abuse issues further refutes his assertion that he made reasonable progress.


In re A.S. (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-110-23, 13 pp.) (Hunter Murphy, J.) Appealed from Mecklenburg County District Court (Reggie McKnight, J.) Kristina Graham for petitioner; Matthew Wunsche for guardian ad litem; Jacky Brammer for respondent. North Carolina Court of Appeals (unpublished)

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