S. Sanford Kantz, New Castle, for appellant.
Kenneth E. Fox, Ellwood City, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Nix, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Manderino, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
On February 24, 1972, R. I.'s foster parents filed a report of intention to adopt R. I. and a petition to terminate the parental rights of R. I.'s natural parents.*fn1 The Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County, after a hearing, entered a decree terminating the parental rights of R. I.'s natural parents. Appellant (the natural mother) appealed to this Court. We vacated the decree and remanded to the orphans' court because it was not shown that appellant waived her right to counsel.*fn2 In re: Adoption of R. I., 455 Pa. 29, 312 A.2d 601 (1973).
The orphans' court appointed counsel for appellant and conducted a second evidentiary hearing. On April 8, 1975, the court terminated appellant's parental rights in accordance with section 311(2) of the Adoption Act*fn3 (hereinafter section 311(2)). Its action was based on findings that appellant had repeatedly and continuously neglected R. I., that the neglect had deprived R. I. of essential parental care, and that this neglect could not and would not be remedied in the future. Appellant
appealed*fn4 claiming that the evidence presented to the hearing court was insufficient to support these findings. We affirm.
The scope of our review is limited to determining from the record whether the hearing court's findings are supported by competent evidence. Schaeffer 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. 584, 215 A.2d 860 (1966); Harvey Adoption Case, 375 Pa. 1, 99 A.2d 276 (1953).
R. I., was born on December 6, 1964. On April 27, 1967, R. I., who was the second youngest child, and her six brothers and sisters were removed from appellant's home. The removal occurred after numerous attempts by school officials and social workers to provide adequate in-home assistance. On May 12, 1967, the Lawrence County Juvenile Court awarded custody of the children to the Lawrence County Child Welfare Services (hereinafter "welfare services").
R. I.'s removal was prompted by circumstances which seriously endangered her welfare. She suffered from malnutrition at the time of removal: she was extremely underweight, had a hole in her chest, was unable to swallow her food, and was unable to move her bowels. In addition, R. I. had numerous bleeding sores on her body; her scalp was covered with scabs; and her hair was matted in these scabs. On at least one occasion all of the children were found sleeping on a concrete floor. There was testimony, which the hearing court chose to believe despite appellant's denial, that this was a regular occurrence. There was also disputed testimony, which was not resolved in the hearing court's opinion, that appellant had no clothing for R. I. at the time R. I. was removed.
R. I.'s foster mother and a social worker who attended to R. I. upon removal testified that R. I. needed immediate
medical attention, which the foster parents provided, and that R. I. suffered the physical effects of this severe neglect for at least several months.*fn5
R. I.'s removal from her parents was also precipitated by the general circumstances of her family. Her father had a severe alcoholic problem, had lost his job a year before removal and had no prospects or apparent desire for employment in the future. As a result of his refusal to seek work, the family lost its public assistance grant. The lack of financial resources and appellant's total inability to plan for her family's care forced her, on at least one occasion, to seek emergency help because she had no funds to buy necessary groceries. In addition, the family had been evicted from their home the month before removal and had been forced to move into quarters totally inadequate for a family of nine. Appellant and her husband had no prospect of obtaining adequate housing in the near future.*fn6
R. I. was placed in a foster home immediately after removal in 1967 and has since lived with the same foster parents. Appellant visited R. I. regularly until December 1969, when welfare services refused to allow further visitation rights. This action was prompted by complaints from the foster parents that the ...