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2010-UP-376 - SCDSS v. Cheryl B.

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

South Carolina Department of Social Services, Respondent,

   v.

Cheryl B., Clarence L., Leon W., and John Doe, whose true identity is unknown, Defendants,

Of Whom Cheryl B. is the Appellant.

In the interest of four minor children under the age of 18.


Appeal From Berkeley County
Wayne M. Creech, Family Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No.  2010-UP-376
Submitted July 1, 2010 – Filed July 28, 2010


AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED


Angela B. Mullholland, of Charleston, for Appellant.

Paul C. White, of Moncks Corner, for Respondent.

E. Ellen Howard Bentz, of Charleston, for Guardian ad Litem. 

PER CURIAM: Cheryl B. (Mother) appeals from the family court's order terminating parental rights to her four minor children (Children).  Mother contends the family court erred in finding termination of parental rights (TPR) was in Children's best interests.  We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.[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).  The family court may order TPR upon finding one or more of the eleven statutory grounds is satisfied and also finding TPR is in the best interest of the child.  S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-2570 (2010).  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 agree with the family court's findings that the statutory grounds for termination of Mother's parental rights were satisfied.  However, regarding the best interests of Children, we find the record is insufficient to determine whether termination of Mother's parental rights was in Children's best interests.  At the TPR hearing, the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) foster care case manager summarily testified TPR was in the best interests of Children.  DSS did not present any testimony regarding how Children were adjusting to their current foster care placements or Children's future prospects for permanent placement.  Additionally, the guardian ad litem did not believe TPR was in Children's best interests, and both the DSS foster care case manager and the guardian ad litem testified Children were strongly bonded with Mother and did not want Mother's parental rights terminated.  Furthermore, in its order, the family court did not provide any factual evidence in support of its finding TPR was in the best interests of Children as required by Rule 26, SCRFC.  See Rule 26(a), SCRFC ("An order or judgment pursuant to an adjudication in a domestic relations case shall set forth the specific findings of fact and conclusions of law to support the [family] court's decision."). 

Accordingly, we affirm the family court's order as to its findings on the statutory grounds for TPR, reverse the family court's order as to its findings on best interests, and remand the matter in order for the family court to make sufficient findings of fact as to whether TPR is in the best interests of Children.  The family court may order a hearing on best interests to further clarify the issues surrounding Children's current foster care placements, Children's future prospects for permanent placement, and any other relevant issues related to Children's best interests.     

AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED.

WILLIAMS, KONDUROS, JJ., and CURETON, A.J., concur. 


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