In re: J.A.K.Â

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF NORTH CAROLINA No. COA17-574 Filed: 6 March 2018 New Hanover County, Nos. 14 JT 194, 195 IN THE MATTER OF: J.A.K. Appeal 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. Heard in the Court of Appeals 18 January 2018. 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. DILLON, Judge. Father appeals from three orders: the trial court’s 22 March 2017 order (the “TPR Order”) terminating his parental rights to J.A.K. (“Jack”)1 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 1 Pseudonyms are used throughout this opinion to protect the identity of the juveniles and for ease of reading. IN RE: J.A.K. Opinion of the Court 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. I. Background In August 2014, the New Hanover County Department of Social Services (“DSS”) obtained nonsecure custody of four-month-old Jack,2 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. In 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. In June 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. 2 The petition also alleged that Jack’s half-brother (who has a different biological father) was also neglected. However, neither the half-brother’s father nor the children’s mother is a party to this appeal. -2- IN RE: J.A.K. Opinion of the Court Months 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 guardianship. In June 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 ...

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