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HARVEY ADOPTION CASE (01/12/53)

January 12, 1953

HARVEY ADOPTION CASE


Appeals, Nos. 296 and 297, Jan. T., 1952, from orders of Orphans' Court of Crawford County, Feb. T., 1952, No. 49 and Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County, May T., 1952, No. 92, in cases of Adoption of Sharon Ann Harvey, a Minor, and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ex rel. Sharon Ann Harvey, A Minor, by her mother, Bonnie Sue Stanley, also a Minor; by Leroy Harvey, Guardian ad litem v. Arthur J. Marhoefer et ux. Orders reversed; reargument refused September 30, 1953.

COUNSEL

Norman Landy, with him Norman Paul Wolken, George J. Barco, Wolken & Landy and Barco & Barco, for appellant.

Gerald D. Prather, with him Leland J. Culbertson, for appellees.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Chidsey and Musmanno, JJ.

Author: Stern

[ 375 Pa. Page 3]

OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HORACE STERN

Proceedings for the adoption of a child must be carefully differentiated from those involving merely a question of its custody; they are of far greater import and involve more serious consequences. Custody may be awarded for a more or less temporary duration, but a decree of adoption terminates forever all relations between the child and its natural parents,

[ 375 Pa. Page 4]

    severs it entirely from its own family tree and engrafts it upon that of its new parentage: Schwab Adoption Case, 355 Pa. 534, 536, 50 A.2d 504, 505. For all purposes, legal and practical, the child thenceforth is dead to the mother who gave it birth; she has lost the right ever to see her child again or even to know of its whereabouts. Because, therefore, of these direful results of an adverse adoption proceeding the rights of the natural parent should not be terminated unless the record clearly warrants such a decree: Southard Adoption Case, 358 Pa. 386, 392, 57 A.2d 904, 907.

The facts are these: Bonnie Sue Harvey, living in a small village in West Virginia, found herself pregnant, at the age of sixteen years and while still a pupil in high school, with an illegitimate child. She and her parents made arrangements with the Roselia Foundling and Maternity Hospital in Pittsburgh for her pre-natal care and confinement. After being there for two months her child, Sharon Ann, was born on April 29, 1951. Her father paid the Hospital for Bonnie Sue's board up to that time and also the charges for the delivery. Nine days thereafter she left in the company of her parents, returned to their home in West Virginia, and continued to reside with them until her marriage on August 18, 1951 to Kenneth Stanley; she then went to live with her husband in a small neighboring community. The child remained in the Roselia Hospital until September 27, 1951 when it was placed by the Hospital with Mr. and Mrs. Arthur J. Marhoefer of Meadville, Crawford County, for adoption; they have since had custody of it and have filed the present petition for its adoption. The mother, now Bonnie Sue Stanley, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to regain the custody of her child. The two petitions being heard together, the court made an order authorizing the Marhoefers to adopt the child

[ 375 Pa. Page 5]

    and awarding them its custody. Bonnie Sue Stanley appeals.

The Act of April 4, 1925, P.L. 127, as amended by the Act of June 30, 1947, P.L. 1180, provides that the consent (to the adoption) of a parent who has abandoned the child for a period of at least six months shall be unnecessary, provided such fact is proven to the satisfaction of the court or judge hearing the petition. The first question in the case, therefore, is whether Bonnie Sue abandoned her child for that length of time. If she did, the second question then arises, whether the adoption sought would be for the best interests and welfare of the child itself: Davies Adoption Case, 353 Pa. 579, 587, 46 A.2d 252, 256; Susko Adoption Case, 363 Pa. 78, 81, 82, 69 A.2d 132, 134, 135; Diana Adoption Case, 165 Pa. Superior Ct. 12, 17, 67 A.2d 751, 753; Frasch Adoption Case, 165 Pa. Superior Ct. 74, 78, 67 A.2d 830, 832; Oelberman Adoption Case, 167 Pa. Superior Ct. 407, 413, 74 A.2d 790, 793; McNutt Appeal, 169 Pa. Superior Ct. 641, 646, 84 A.2d 360, 362. The statute does not provide for an appeal, but, on the other hand, it does not forbid one; therefore our review by certiorari is "in the broadest sense", including a consideration of the testimony to determine whether the findings of the court below are supported by competent evidence: Kaufman Construction Co. v. Holcomb, 357 Pa. 514, 518, 519, 55 A.2d 534, 536; Diana Adoption Case, 165 Pa. Superior Ct. 12, 18, 67 A.2d 751, 753; Oelberman Adoption Case, 167 Pa. Superior Ct. 407, 413, 74 A.2d 790, 793. While the act provides for the proof of abandonment to the satisfaction of the judge hearing the petition, the court's finding in regard to that issue, being a deduction or inference from established facts and therefore the result of reasoning, is reviewable on appeal: Southard Adoption Case, 358 Pa. 386, 390, 391, 57 A.2d

[ 375 Pa. Page 6904]

, 906; Davies Adoption Case, 353 Pa. 579, 580, 581, 46 A.2d 252, 253, 254; Schwab Adoption Case, 355 Pa. ...


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