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2012-UP-275 - SCDSS v. Sarah F.

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.

Sarah F., Anthony P., Jarvis F., Anthony F., John Doe, whose true identity is unknown, and two Minor Children, Defendants,

Of whom Sarah F. is the Appellant.

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


Appeal From Berkeley County
Jack A. Landis, Family Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2012-UP-275
Submitted April 2, 2012 – Filed May 2, 2012   


AFFIRMED


Lester S. Schwartz, of Charleston, for Appellant.

Wolfgang L. Kelly, of Moncks Corner, for Respondent.

Sean F. Keefer, of Moncks Corner, for Guardian ad Litem.

PER CURIAM: Sarah F. (Mother) appeals the family court's termination of her parental rights to two of her minor children (the Children).  The family court found clear and convincing evidence supported termination of Mother's parental rights on the grounds that the Children were in foster care for fifteen of the last twenty-two months, Mother failed to support the Children, Mother failed to remedy the conditions that caused removal, and Mother has a diagnosable condition that was unlikely to change in a reasonable time.  Mother argues the family court erred in terminating her parental rights when the Department of Social Services (DSS) failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence the grounds for termination of parental rights (TPR) and that TPR was in the Children's best interest.  We affirm.

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, this court is 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. (internal quotation marks omitted).  The family court may order TPR upon finding one or more of eleven statutory grounds is met and TPR is in the child's best interests.  S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-2570 (Supp. 2011).  "[T]he best interests of the children 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).

Mother did provide intermittent material support for the Children, but the record shows Mother did not make any support contributions in the six-month period between March 2008 and October 2008 or the year between February 2009 and February 2010.  During this time, Mother was employed and able to make some minimal contribution to support the Children.  Moreover, an additional statutory ground for TPR was met because the Children have been in foster care for fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months.  The record contains significant testimony, especially from the Children's guardian ad litem and DSS caseworker, TPR was in the Children's best interest.  Furthermore, the Children are together in a pre-adoptive home and the record shows they are thriving.  Accordingly, we agree TPR is in the Children's best interests.  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.  S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-2570 (Supp. 2011).  Based on the foregoing, we affirm the family court's order terminating Mother's parental rights.

AFFIRMED.

PIEPER, KONDUROS, and GEATHERS, JJ., concur.