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SMITH ADOPTION CASE. (11/12/63)

November 12, 1963

SMITH ADOPTION CASE.


Appeal, No. 171, March T., 1963, from decree of Orphans' Court of Westmoreland County, No. 1515 of 1961, in re adoption of Susan Smith, minor. Decree affirmed.

COUNSEL

Joseph K. Bonidy, for appellant.

William F. Caruthers, for appellees.

Before Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'brien and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Roberts

[ 412 Pa. Page 502]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS

The sole question for determination on this appeal from a decree of adoption entered by the Orphans' Court of Westmoreland County, is whether the evidence supports the finding by the court below that the natural mother abandoned her child for a period of at least six months. If the evidence establishes abandonment, her consent to the adoption is unnecessary. If, however, the evidence is insufficient to support such a finding, the adoption may not be decreed without her consent. Adoption Act of April 4, 1925, P.L. 127, as amended, 1 P.S. ยงยง 1-7 (1963).

The natural mother, age 25, unmarried, and a resident of Clarion County, gave birth to a female child on September 21, 1961, in a Westmoreland County hospital. Three days later, the mother carried the child from the hospital and surrendered the infant to her obstetrician for adoptive placement.

At the adoption hearings on October 23 and November 7, 1962, the natural mother appeared with counsel and testified in opposition to the adoption of her daughter. On both occasions, then more than a year after she surrendered the child, she testified that prior to October, 1962, she made no attempt or effort to secure custody of her child, did not express to anyone a desire to see or visit the child, nor did she request of her physician-intermediary or of anyone else the return of her child.

The essential facts are not in controversy. Appellant resided with her mother in a community of less than 1000 population. Six months before the birth of the child, she left her residence and proceeded to another small Pennsylvania community, where the putative father was located, with the expectation of "getting married." The marriage did not take place; instead the young man had her talk to a clergyman who

[ 412 Pa. Page 503]

(according to her testimony) advised "the only thing I should do was place this child for adoption and start anew, forget about the child and start over."*fn1 She then consulted a family agency in Pittsburgh and was referred to a social agency maternity home in Allegheny County. She entered the home and resided there for four months but spent the eighth and ninth months of her pregnancy at the home of the female obstetrician*fn2 who later served as the intermediary in placing the child with the adoptive parents.

On December 21, 1961, almost three months after the surrender of the child, the natural mother (accompanied by her attorney and her mother) appeared at the hospital in Latrobe for a blood grouping test in connection with a pending paternity proceeding against the putative father. The child was brought to the hospital by the obstetrician-intermediary, and the natural mother, child and others were together for several hours. During this visit, the natural mother voiced no desire to keep ...


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