Ronald C. Travis, Williamsport, for appellant.
Peter R. Andrews, York, for appellee, Tressler Lutheran Home for Children.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Pomeroy, J., dissents.
On May 19, 1972, a decree was entered by the Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas terminating appellant's parental rights in her son David, then nineteen weeks of age. Adoption Act of 1970, Act of July 24, 1970, P.L. 620, § 303, 1 P.S. § 303. That decree was entered pursuant to a petition for voluntary relinquishment filed on her behalf. When David was born on January 2, 1972, appellant was fourteen years old; she was fifteen years of age when the decree was entered on May 19, 1972. Nine months after the entry of the decree, appellant filed a petition to set the decree aside. Relief was denied and this appeal followed.
The appellant contends that her consent to relinquish her parental rights was a vitiated consent, one which was not voluntary, intelligent and deliberate. Susko Adoption Case, 363 Pa. 78, 69 A.2d 132 (1949). The trial court relied on Watson Appeal, 450 Pa. 579, 301 A.2d 861 (1973) in denying relief. Watson Appeal was decided on March 16, 1973, seven days after the close of the hearings in this case, and while the matter was under advisement by the trial court. The application of the principles of Watson to the facts of this case, however, does not warrant the conclusion that appellant's consent to the relinquishment of her parental rights was voluntary, intelligent and deliberate.
In Watson, we held that the circumstances before and after the parent's consent at the relinquishment hearing
"[did] not indicate a vitiated consent . . . ." Watson considered the circumstances before the termination decree and concluded that the juvenile appellant had the benefit of advice and counsel from persons whose judgments were made with appellant's best interest in mind:
"Appellant was counseled by case workers of the Episcopal Children's Service throughout her pregnancy and during the period between her daughter's birth and the date of the voluntary relinquishment. During her last four months of pregnancy, appellant attended a high school accommodating only unwed pregnant young women. She was thus afforded ample opportunity to discuss her situation with empathetic persons." (Emphasis added.)
Id. at 583, 301 A.2d at 864.
The empathetic persons who provided advice and counsel to the juvenile in Watson were knowledgeable, having expertise and experience in assisting unwed mothers, and were ...