Legal Aid of Chester County, Robert L. Keogh, Westchester, for appellant.
Lamb, Windle & McErlane, Susan P. Windle, E. Craig Kalemjian, Westchester, for appellee, Chester County Children's Services.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.
On January 22, 1975, the Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County entered a decree terminating appellant father's parental rights to his out-of-wedlock son. The orphans' court action was
taken pursuant to section 311(1) of the Adoption Act*fn1 (hereinafter "section 311(1)"), which authorizes termination of parental rights upon a finding of parental abandonment. On this appeal,*fn2 appellant argues: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support a finding of abandonment; and (2) the orphans' court erred in not directing the county child welfare agency to provide supportive services to appellant prior to seeking termination of appellant's parental rights. We agree with appellant's first contention and reverse.
The scope of our review is limited to determining from the record whether the hearing court's finding of abandonment is supported by competent evidence. Sheaffer Appeal, 452 Pa. 165, 305 A.2d 36 (1973); Vaders Adoption Case, 444 Pa. 428, 282 A.2d 359 (1971); Hookey Adoption Case, 419 Pa. 583, 215 A.2d 860 (1966); Harvey Adoption Case, 375 Pa. 1, 99 A.2d 276 (1953).
The facts are undisputed. Baby M was born on December 23, 1972. His parents, appellant, father (who was 19 years of age) and Sherry Tinson (who was 17 years of age), were not married and lived with their respective mothers. Appellant visited Tinson and his son frequently during the first two months of M's life. On several occasions, appellant and his mother took M to their house for periods ranging from a few hours to a day. However, primary parental responsibility remained
with Tinson, and appellant made only limited financial contributions for M's care.
On March 8, 1973, appellant was incarcerated on charges stemming from a burglary. He remained in contact with Tinson for the first several months of his imprisonment and often inquired about his son's welfare. Tinson requested that children's services place her and M in foster homes. On June 15 they were placed in separate foster homes and, shortly thereafter, Tinson terminated all contact with appellant. Appellant ...