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2012-UP-051 - SCDSS v. Sierra R.

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.

Sierra R. and Ronald R., Defendants,

Of whom Sierra R. is the, Appellant.

In the interest of three minors under the age of 18.


Appeal from Aiken County
The Honorable Vicki J. Snelgrove, Family Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2012-UP-051
Submitted January 2, 2012 – Filed January 25, 2012   


AFFIRMED


Clarke W. McCants, III, of Aiken, for Appellant.

Dennis M. Gmerek, of Aiken, for Respondent.

Patrick A. McWilliams, of Aiken, for Guardian ad Litem.

PER CURIAM: Sierra R. (Mother) appeals the family court's termination of her parental rights (TPR) to her three minor children (Children), arguing the family court erred in terminating her parental rights when the Department of Social Services (DSS) failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that it was not reasonably likely the home could be made safe within twelve months.  We affirm.[1]

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 interest of the child.[2]  S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-2570 (2010).  Section 63-7-2570(1) of the South Carolina Code (Supp. 2010) provides for termination of parental rights when: "The child or another child while residing in the parent's domicile has been harmed . . . and because of the severity or repetition of the abuse or neglect, it is not reasonably likely that the home can be made safe within twelve months."  Furthermore, "[i]n determining the likelihood that the home can be made safe, the parent's previous abuse or neglect of the child . . . may be considered."  S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-2570(1).  A child is harmed when a parent "fails to supply the child with adequate . . . shelter . . . and the failure to do so has caused or presents a substantial risk of causing physical or mental injury."  S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-20(4)(c) (2010). 

On appeal from the family court, this court reviews factual and legal issues de novo.  Simmons v. Simmons, 392 S.C. 412, 414, 709 S.E.2d 666, 667 (2011); see also Lewis v. Lewis, 392 S.C. 381, 386, 709 S.E.2d 650, 652 (2011).  Although this court reviews the family court's findings de novo, we are not required to ignore the fact that the family court, who saw and heard the witnesses, was in a better position to evaluate their credibility and assign comparative weight to their testimony.  Lewis, 392 S.C. at 385, 709 S.E.2d at 652.  The burden is upon the appellant to convince this court that the family court erred in its findings.  Id.

We affirm the family court's finding that the Children were harmed because Mother failed to provide an adequate, safe, and sanitary home.  Significant evidence was presented that the home was found in a deplorable condition multiple times over the course of almost five years.  The record reveals authorities observed dirty clothes and trash strewn around the home, piles of dirty diapers, rotten food, and roaches.  Furthermore, testimony was presented that batteries, cords, and other safety hazards were on the floor and posed a potential danger to the Children.  In regards to whether it is reasonably likely that the home could be made safe within twelve months, it is particularly telling that Mother received extensive services from DSS, admitted to being able to keep a clean home, yet still repeatedly failed to keep the home in a safe and sanitary condition.  Mother's extended involvement with DSS over the same issue demonstrates a pattern of neglect that indicates the home is not reasonably likely to be made safe within twelve months. 

AFFIRMED.

SHORT, WILLIAMS, and GEATHERS, JJ., concur.


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

[2] Mother did not appeal the family court's finding that TPR was in Children's best interests.