Supreme Court Seal
Supreme Court Seal
South Carolina
Judicial Department
2010-UP-366 - Charleston DSS v. Wendy J.


In The Court of Appeals

Charleston County Department of Social Services, Respondent,


Wendy J. and John Doe, Defendants,

Of Whom Wendy J. is the Appellant.

In the interest of one minor child under the age of 18.

Appeal From Charleston County
Paul W. Garfinkel, Family Court Judge

Unpublished Opinion No. 2010-UP-366
Submitted December 1, 2009 – Filed July 14, 2010   


Brian C. Duffy, J. Rutledge Young, III, and Lee Anne Walters, all of Charleston, for Appellant.

Bonnie T. Brisbane, of North Charleston, for Respondent.

John F. Martin, of Charleston, Guardian Ad Litem.

PER CURIAM:  Wendy J. (Mother) appeals the family court's final order terminating her parental rights to her minor child (Child).  Mother contends the family court erred in finding (1) Child was harmed by Mother and because of the severity of abuse, it was not reasonably likely the home could be made safe; (2) Mother failed to remedy the conditions that caused the removal of Child; (3) Mother failed to visit Child; (4) Mother failed to support Child; (5) Mother abandoned Child; and (6) termination of parental rights (TPR) was in Child's best interests.  We affirm.[1]

The grounds for TPR must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.  S.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Parker, 336 S.C. 248, 254, 519 S.E.2d 351, 354 (Ct. App. 1999).  "Upon review, the appellate court may make its own finding from the record as to whether clear and convincing evidence supports the termination [of parental rights]."  S.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Headden, 354 S.C. 602, 609, 582 S.E.2d 419, 423 (2003).  However, despite our broad scope of review, we are not required to disregard the findings of "the family court, who saw and heard the witnesses, [and] was in a better position to evaluate their credibility and assign comparative weight to their testimony."  Id.  The family court may order TPR upon finding one or more of eleven statutory grounds is satisfied and also finding TPR is in the best interests of the child.  S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-2570 (2010). 

We find clear and convincing evidence supports the family court's findings that Mother failed to remedy the conditions that led to the removal of child.[2]   See § 63-7-2570(2).  After DSS removed Child because Child tested positive for cocaine at birth, Mother failed to enroll in a substance abuse program, take parenting classes, or attempt to complete any other part of her court-ordered treatment plan.  Instead, in the six-month period after Child's removal, Mother, by her own admission, continued to take drugs and engage in criminal behavior before she was convicted and imprisoned for third-degree burglary.  Although it is commendable that Mother was making efforts to address her problems while imprisoned by applying for enrollment in substance abuse and parenting classes, she did not remedy the conditions that led to removal of Child.  See Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Pritchett, 296 S.C. 517, 520, 374 S.E.2d 500, 501 (Ct. App. 1988) ("[A]n attempt to remedy alone is [inadequate] to preserve parental rights.  Otherwise, the statute would be couched in such terms. The attempt must have, in fact, remedied the conditions."). Accordingly, the family court correctly found sufficient statutory grounds for TPR.           

In a TPR case, the best interests of the child are the paramount consideration.  S.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Smith, 343 S.C. 129, 133, 538 S.E.2d 285, 287 (Ct. App. 2000).  "The interests of the child shall prevail if the child's interest and the parental rights conflict."  S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-2620 (2010). 

We find clear and convincing evidence in the record supports the family court's finding termination of Mother's parental rights was in Child's best interests. Mother has a history of abusing drugs and criminal behavior stemming from her drug addiction.  Additionally, Mother has no relationship with Child and does not have a familial network to support her if Child is returned to her care.  In contrast, Child's current foster care family is providing a stable and loving environment for Child, and both Child's foster care worker and the guardian ad litem stated Child was well-adjusted and was bonded with the foster care family.  Additionally, Child's foster care family expressed interest in adopting Child, and terminating Mother's parental rights would allow the adoption process to proceed.  See Doe v. Roe, 386 S.C. 624, 634, 690 S.E.2d 573, 579 (2010) ("Overturning the family court's decision to terminate [parent's] rights clearly conflicts with the TPR statute's purpose to make a child eligible for adoption by someone 'who will provide a suitable home environment and the love and care necessary for a happy, healthful, and productive life.'" (quoting S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-2510 (2010))).  Accordingly, the family court correctly determined TPR was in Child's best interests.       



[1] We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.

[2]  Because we find Mother failed to remedy the conditions that led to the removal of Child, we need not address the remaining statutory grounds for TPR.  See Stinecipher v. Ballington, 366 S.C. 92, 100 n.6, 620 S.E.2d 93, 98 n.6 (Ct. App. 2005) (stating once one statutory ground is met, this court need not address whether any other ground for TPR has been proved).