in the Court of Appeals 19 September 2019.
by respondent-father from order entered 30 November 2018 by
Judge Kevin Eddinger in Rowan County District Court. No. 16
R. Thompson for petitioner-appellee Rowan County Department
of Social Services.
& Audino, LLP, by Jeffrey L. Miller, for
appeals from the trial court's order terminating his
parental rights. We conclude that there was sufficient
evidence to support the trial court's finding of willful
abandonment pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(7).
Therefore, we affirm the termination order.
minor child E.B. was born in 2016. The day after her birth,
the child's biological mother relinquished custody of her
to Petitioner Rowan County Department of Social Services
("DSS") for the purpose of placing her for
adoption. The child's biological mother identified
Respondent-Father as a potential putative father.
March 2016, Respondent-Father entered into an "Out of
Home Family Services Agreement" with DSS, and on 19
April 2016, a paternity test confirmed that he was the minor
child's biological father. Thereafter, the minor child
was placed in foster care. Between 12 May 2016 and 25 January
2018, the trial court conducted six Permanency Planning and
Review Hearings. The trial court entered six resulting orders
that placed numerous requirements on Respondent-Father before
he could be reunified with the minor child. Among those
requirements were that Respondent-Father engage in various
substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence, and
parenting education services. No juvenile petition was ever
filed in the case.
April 2017, Respondent-Father requested that his sister,
ShaVonnda Young, a California resident, be considered as a
placement for the minor child. Placement of the minor child
with Ms. Young was approved on 30 May 2018, but DSS did not
recommend the placement, and the child remained with her
foster family. On 22 January 2018, Respondent-Father moved to
filed a petition to terminate Respondent-Father's
parental rights on 10 April 2018, alleging grounds of
neglect, failure to make reasonable progress, and willful
abandonment. The petition came on for hearing before the
Honorable Kevin Eddinger over the course of four days between
July and November 2018.
order entered 30 November 2018, the trial court terminated
Respondent-Father's parental rights upon findings of
grounds of neglect, pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. §
7B-1111(a)(1); failure to make reasonable progress, pursuant
to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(2); and willful
abandonment, pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. §
7B-1111(a)(7). Respondent-Father timely filed written notice
appeal, Respondent-Father argues that the trial court erred
in concluding that grounds existed to terminate his parental
rights. Respondent-Father also filed a petition for writ of
certiorari seeking this Court's review of the six
Permanency Planning Orders entered in this case.
Specifically, Respondent-Father contends that those orders
"were entered without subject matter jurisdiction or
authority because there was no pending juvenile action for
abuse, neglect, or dependency filed under the Juvenile Code
at the time the Orders were entered." Accordingly,
Respondent-Father contends that the trial court erred in
basing the termination of his parental rights on his failure
to comply with the terms of those orders. We allowed
Respondent-Father's petition for certiorari by order
entered 15 August 2019.
Standard of Review
This Court reviews a trial court's conclusion that
grounds exist to terminate parental rights to determine
whether clear, cogent, and convincing evidence exists to
support the court's findings of fact, and whether the
findings of fact support the court's conclusions of law.
If the trial court's findings of fact are supported by
ample, competent evidence, they are binding on appeal, even
though there may be evidence to the contrary. However, the
trial court's conclusions of law are fully reviewable
de novo by the appellate court.
In re C.J.H., 240 N.C.App. 489, 497, 772 S.E.2d 82,
88 (2015) (citations and quotation marks omitted).
Permanency Planning Orders-Subject-Matter Jurisdiction
trial court entered six Permanency Planning Orders between 14
July 2016 and 8 March 2018 while the minor child was in the
custody of DSS. Those orders placed numerous requirements on
Respondent-Father to overcome the barriers that the trial
court found and impeded his reunification with the minor
child, including that Respondent-Father engage in various
substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence,
parenting education services. During the 21 months preceding
the filing of the termination petition, Respondent-Father
complied with some, but not all, of those requirements.
See In re