in the Court of Appeals 18 January 2018.
by Father from orders entered 18 April 2016, 19 October 2016,
and 22 March 2017 by Judge J.H. Corpening, II, in New Hanover
County District Court Nos. 14 JT 194, 195.
Jennifer Cooke for Petitioner-Appellee New Hanover County
Department of Social Services.
Jeffrey L. Miller for the Respondent-Appellant Father.
Administrative Office of the Courts, by GAL Appellate Counsel
Matthew D. Wunsche, for guardian ad litem.
appeals from three orders: the trial court's 22 March
2017 order (the "TPR Order") terminating his
parental rights to J.A.K. ("Jack") and two prior
permanency planning orders entered in this matter; one
entered on 18 April 2016 (the "April Order")
eliminating reunification efforts and changing the permanent
plan to adoption with a concurrent plan of guardianship; and
one entered six months later on 19 October 2016 continuing
the April Order (the "October Order"). We affirm
the trial court's TPR Order and the April Order, and we
dismiss Father's appeal of the October Order.
August 2014, the New Hanover County Department of Social
Services ("DSS") obtained nonsecure custody of
four-month-old Jack,  and filed a petition alleging that he was
a neglected juvenile. Father was named in the petition, but,
despite several attempts, was never served with process.
September 2014, the trial court entered an order adjudicating
Jack neglected based on the mother's stipulation to the
allegations in the petition. Though Father still had not been
served with process, the trial court ordered Father to
present himself to DSS to enter into a case plan and
establish a visitation agreement.
2015, after paternity testing confirmed Father was Jack's
biological father, Father was appointed counsel. Father also
began visitation with Jack, and he entered into a case plan
with DSS. His case plan required completion of parenting
classes and maintaining stable and appropriate housing and
employment. In a permanency planning order following a
September 2015 hearing, the trial court ordered Father to
comply with his case plan.
later, in the April Order, the trial court ordered DSS (1) to
cease reunification efforts with Father; (2) pursue
termination of Father's parental rights; and (3) changed
the permanent plan for Jack from reunification to adoption by
Jack's foster parents, with a concurrent plan of
2016, DSS filed a petition to terminate Father's parental
rights to Jack, alleging two grounds for termination. The
petition also sought to terminate the parental rights of
Jack's mother. In the October Order, a permanency
planning order entered in October 2016, the trial court
confirmed the permanent plan of adoption with the foster
parents, with a concurrent plan of guardianship with the
a hearing, the trial court entered the TPR Order, in which it
found the existence of both grounds for termination alleged
against Father and Jack's mother. The trial court also
concluded that termination of the parental rights of Father
and of Jack's mother was in the juvenile's best
interest. Father appealed.
initial matter, we must determine whether Father's
appeals from the April Order and October Order are properly
before us. Father has filed an alternative petition for writ
of certiorari in the event that they are not. We
address each order in turn.
April Order, the trial court ceased reunification efforts
with Father pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-906.2(b)
(2015). Section 7B-1001(a) of our juvenile code states that
when our Court is reviewing a trial court order terminating
parental rights, our Court shall also review any prior order
by the trial court eliminating reunification as a permanent
plan if all the following apply:
1. A motion or petition to terminate the parent's rights
is heard and granted.
2. The order terminating parental rights is appealed in a