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.
Submitted May 26, 2017
From Spartanburg County Rochelle Y. Conits, Family Court
Melinda Inman Butler, of The Butler Law Firm, of Union, for
Deborah Murdock Gentry, of Murdock Law Firm, LLC of Mauldin;
and Robert C. Rhoden, III, of the South Carolina Department
of Social Services, of Spartanburg, both for Respondent.
Brandt Rucker, of The Rucker Law Firm, LLC, of Greenville, as
Guardian ad Litem for Appellant.
Nicole Griffith, of Talley Law Firm, P.A., of Spartanburg,
for the Guardian ad Litem for the minor child.
Powell (Mother) appeals the family court's order
terminating her parental rights to her minor son (Child). On
appeal, Mother argues the family court (1) lacked subject
matter jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody
Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA),  (2) erred in
terminating her parental rights, and (3) erred in finding
Child's permanent plan should be adoption without
considering relative placement. We affirm.
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); 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, which 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 651-52.
the family court had jurisdiction under the UCCJEA to proceed
with the termination of parental rights (TPR)
action. Although South Carolina may not have been
Child's home state when the removal action commenced,
family court had temporary emergency jurisdiction under
section 63-15-336 of the South Carolina Code (2010) at that
time. See S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-330(A) (2010)
("Except as otherwise provided in Section 63-15-336, a
court of this State has jurisdiction to make an initial child
custody determination only if: (1) this State is the home
state of the child on the date of the commencement of the
proceeding . . . .); S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-302(7)
(2010) ("'Home state' means the state in which a
child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for
at least six consecutive months immediately before the
commencement of a child custody proceeding. In the case of a
child less than six months of age, the term means the state
in which the child lived from birth with any of the persons
mentioned."); § 63-15-336(A) ("A court of this
State has temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child is
present in this State and the child has been abandoned or it
is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the
child, or a sibling or parent of the child, is subjected to
or threatened with mistreatment or abuse."). Based on
the plain language of section 63-15-336(B), we find the
removal order became a final order for purposes of the
UCCJEA. See id. ("If a child custody proceeding
has not been or is not commenced in a court of a state having
jurisdiction under Sections 63-15-330 through 63-15-334, a
child custody determination made under this section becomes a
final determination, if it so provides and this State becomes
the home state of the child."). Child remained in South
Carolina following the removal action, and no evidence showed
another state had issued orders concerning Child or an action
concerning Child was commenced in another state. Thus, we
find the removal order became a final order under the UCCJEA,
and South Carolina had jurisdiction over Child when the
Department of Social Services (DSS) filed the TPR action in
Mother acknowledges she did not present evidence of any
existing court order addressing Child's custody from
another state, she asserts that under South Carolina
Department of Social Services v. Tran, 418 S.C. 308, 792
S.E.2d 254 (Ct. App. 2016), the family court should have
stopped the proceeding upon learning "there was an open
case in the [s]tate of Alabama with the comparable DSS
Agency" and "the proceeding should not have moved
forward without [DSS] satisfying the family court that it had
subject matter jurisdiction to proceed." However, we
find Tran distinguishable. In Tran, this
court found the removal order could not become a final order
under section 16-15-336(B) because the mother "submitted
evidence of an existing out-of-state order" and DSS did
not meet its "burden of proving South Carolina ha[d]
jurisdiction to proceed with [the] action." 418 S.C. at
318, 792 S.E.2d at 259; see also Anthony H. v.
Matthew G., 397 S.C. 447, 452, 725 S.E.2d 132, 135 (Ct.
App. 2012) ("[F]or South Carolina cases involving
jurisdictional questions under the UCCJEA, if the
defendant provides evidence to the court of an existing
out-of-state order, the plaintiff assumes the burden of
proving the new state has jurisdiction to issue the initial
child custody order and the issuing state has lost or
declined to exercise its jurisdiction." (emphasis
added)). Here, Mother did not submit any
evidence during the hearing or on appeal that another state
issued an order affecting Child. In her brief, Mother does
not allege another order existed-she merely states it
could exist. Mother has not submitted any evidence
of an order or proceeding from another state affecting Child.
Thus, we find the removal order became a final order, and the
South Carolina family court had jurisdiction under the UCCJEA
to proceed with the TPR action.
we find clear and convincing evidence showed Mother failed to
remedy the conditions causing Child's removal.
See S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-2570(2) (Supp. 2016)
(providing a statutory ground for TPR is met when "[t]he
child has been removed from the parent pursuant to . . .
[s]ection 63-7-1660 and has been out of the home for a period
of six months following the adoption of a placement plan by
court order or by agreement between [DSS] and the parent[, ]
and the parent has not remedied the conditions which caused
the removal"). Child was removed from the home in
December 2014 after DSS received a report that Mother
physically abused Child by "grabbing his leg and jerking
him around while trying to change his diaper and punching him
with her fist in the buttocks." A doctor examined the
Child's bruises and concluded they were consistent with
child abuse. Ashtyn Gardner, a DSS caseworker, testified DSS
was concerned Mother may have a mental health issue because
Mother stated she was bipolar, and Mother had threatened to
harm her grandmother around the time Child was removed.
Mother testified she was admitted to the psychiatric ward
around the time of removal, and they told her she was
bipolar. At the March 12, 2015 merits hearing, the family
court determined Mother physically abused Child and ordered
her to complete a placement plan that included attending
parenting classes, completing a psychological evaluation and
following recommendations, and attending individual
counseling. Based on the harm Child suffered and DSS's
concerns about Mother's mental health, we find the
foregoing services were reasonable and necessary components
of the placement plan. See McCutcheon v. Charleston Cty.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 302 S.C. 338, 343, 396 S.E.2d
115, 118 (Ct. App. 1990) (providing DSS must "identify
the condition that led to the removal" and
"identify appropriate rehabilitative services");
id. at 342, 396 S.E.2d at 117 ("[I]t is
imperative that the condition which led to [the child's]
removal be thoroughly explored.").
testified DSS made the appropriate referrals, but at the time
of the August 27, 2015 permanency planning hearing, Mother
had not obtained a psychological evaluation, attended
parenting classes, or completed individual counseling.
Although Mother eventually attended parenting classes, the
evidence showed she waited until 2016-more than a year after
the removal-to begin them. Mother was discharged from mental
health treatment in December 2015 due to
"[n]on-compliance with treatment"; thus, we find
the evidence shows that as of December 2015-a year after
Child was removed and a month after DSS filed the TPR
action-Mother had not completed individual counseling.
Although it appears Mother sought counseling in 2016, we find
Mother's delay in seeking counseling supports affirming
this ground. Most concerning, however, was Mother's
failure to obtain a psychological evaluation. Although Mother
submitted a document that she averred was a psychological
evaluation, Gardner testified the document did not "look
like the typical psychological evaluation" DSS referred
parents to, and DSS did not consider it a psychological