Determining the Best Interests of the Child - North Carolina

Date: September 2023

Guiding Principles

Citation: Gen. Stat. §§ 7B-100; 7B-507 

This subchapter shall be interpreted and construed to implement the following purposes and policies:

  • To provide procedures for the hearing of juvenile cases that assure fairness and equity and that protect the constitutional rights of juveniles and parents 
  • To develop a disposition in each juvenile case that reflects consideration of the facts, the needs and limitations of the juvenile, and the strengths and weaknesses of the family
  • To provide services for the protection of juveniles by means that respect both the right to family autonomy and the juveniles' needs for safety, continuity, and permanence
  • To provide standards for the removal, when necessary, of juveniles from their homes and for the return of juveniles to their homes consistent with preventing the unnecessary or inappropriate separation of juveniles from their parents
  • To provide standards, consistent with the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, P.L. 105-89, for ensuring that the best interests of the juvenile are of paramount consideration by the court and that when it is not in the juvenile's best interests to be returned home, the juvenile will be placed in a safe, permanent home within a reasonable amount of time

An order placing or continuing the placement of a juvenile in the nonsecure custody of a county Department of Social Services shall contain the following:

  • A finding that the juvenile's continuation in or return to the juvenile's own home would be contrary to the juvenile's health and safety
  • Specific findings as to whether a county department has made reasonable efforts to prevent the need for placement of the juvenile

In determining whether efforts to prevent the placement of the juvenile were reasonable, the juvenile's health and safety shall be the paramount concern.

Best Interests Factors

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 7B-1110(a)

After an adjudication that one or more grounds for terminating a parent’s rights exist, the court shall determine whether terminating the parent’s rights is in the juvenile’s best interest. The court may consider any evidence that the court finds to be relevant, reliable, and necessary to determine the best interests of the juvenile. In each case, the court shall consider the following criteria and make written findings regarding the following that are relevant:

  • The age of the juvenile
  • The likelihood of adoption of the juvenile
  • Whether the termination of parental rights will aid in the accomplishment of the permanent plan for the juvenile
  • The bond between the juvenile and their parent
  • The quality of the relationship between the juvenile and the proposed adoptive parent, guardian, custodian, or other permanent placement
  • Any relevant consideration

Other Considerations

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 7B-1110(b)

Should the court conclude that, irrespective of the existence of one or more circumstances authorizing termination of parental rights, the best interests of the juvenile require that rights should not be terminated, the court shall dismiss the petition or deny the motion, but only after setting forth the facts and conclusions upon which the dismissal or denial is based.