In re J.R. – Case Notes
Respondent Father was convicted of sexually abusing Respondent Mother’s daughter. To prevent further issues, he signed a safety plan agreeing not to have any contact with his 19 month old son, Jonah. Nevertheless, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled a finding that Jonah was seen riding a bus on the father’s lap was insufficient to support a conclusion that Jonah was neglected.
The Court of Appeals examined N.C.G.S. Section 7B-101(15), which includes under the definition of Neglected Juvenile one who “lived in a home where another juvenile was subjected to abuse and neglect by an adult who regularly lived in the home.” The Court found no evidence that the father regularly lived in the home, or that the mother subjected her other children to abuse and neglect. The evidence and trial court’s findings were insufficient to show Father’s “single contact” on the bus with Jonah either harmed the child or created a substantial risk of such harm. Therefore, the bus incident is not considered neglect.
Additionally, the Court found Mother’s lack of stable housing to be absent the requisite evidence of harm or substantial risk of harm necessary to support the trial court’s adjudication of neglect of Jonah. The court made no finding that Jonah was ever without shelter or that he suffered harm or a substantial risk of harm from the mother’s frequent moves.