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Permanency Planning Orders and Reunification in North Carolina

In North Carolina, the courts determine child custody based on the best interests of the child. If a child is taken from their biological parents or legal guardians, there are often reunification procedures in place. However, reunification is not always included in permanency planning orders.

Permanency Planning in North Carolina

Permanency planning services are initiated when a child’s parents or guardians cannot provide adequate care or protection to the child. The child enters the custody of a welfare services agency, which is then responsible for placing the child in another home.

Reunifying the child with their caregiver is generally a primary or secondary goal of a permanency plan unless a court determines that reunification would not meet the child’s need for safety and security. Generally, reunification in North Carolina is considered when the following criteria have been met:

  • The reasons for the child’s removal have been resolved
  • There is no longer an unreasonable level of risk to the child
  • The parents or guardians have made necessary changes in their behavior or circumstances
  • It is expected that the child’s proper care and safety shall continue in the home

In re: R.G.

In a recent North Carolina case involving a child with the initials R.G., the child was removed from her guardian’s home and placed with her grandmother. The child’s guardian (Mother) had a male friend who repeatedly abused R.G., and Mother did not step in to protect the child after learning about the abuse.

Because Mother failed to protect R.G. and made no effort to address the conditions that led to R.G.’s removal, the trial court determined that reunification efforts would cease. Mother appealed, stating a permanency planning order must include reunification efforts.

The appeals court considered numerous relevant issues, including changes to North Carolina law that no longer required reunification to be a part of an initial permanency plan. It was determined that reunification efforts are a separate and distinct concept from reunification as part of a permanent plan. Ultimately, the appellate court ruled that Mother’s appeal of the permanency planning order was interlocutory, and it was dismissed.

An interlocutory order does not settle or finalize all the issues in a case. These orders are temporary or address only one element of a case, and they cannot be appealed in North Carolina except under limited circumstances.

Legal Representation for Reunification Efforts in North Carolina

If you have lost custody of your child and need help navigating the reunification process, an experienced Greensboro family law attorney can help ensure your rights are protected as you work to reconnect with your child.