Carl M. Moses, Sharon, for appellant.
Nicholas Mamone, Jr., David J. Graban, Legal Services for Northwestern Pennsylvania, Sharon, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Eagen, Roberts, Nix and Manderino, JJ., concur in the result.
This is an appeal by Julius and Lottie Denson from a denial of their petition to terminate involuntarily the parental rights of Lucille M. Daoust*fn1 in her infant child, Latasha Howard, of whom the Densons are legal guardians. The petition prayed that Miss Daoust's parental rights be terminated under either § 311(1) or § 311(2) of the Adoption Act of 1970, Act of July 24, 1970, P.L. 620, 1 P.S. § 311 [hereinafter referred to as § 311].*fn2 After a hearing the trial court concluded that the legal justifications for involuntary termination of parental rights set forth in § 311 had not been demonstrated, and refused to terminate the parental rights of Miss Daoust. The Densons have appealed this decision. We affirm.
This Court has frequently acknowledged the severity of the emotional impact which attends a court decree terminating against the wishes of a natural father
or mother, his or her parental rights in a child. See, e. g., In re Adoption of M. T. T., 467 Pa. 88, 354 A.2d 564, 568 (1976); Sarver Adoption Case, 444 Pa. 507, 509-510, 281 A.2d 890, 891 (1971). Before parental rights may be involuntarily terminated, the proponent of the termination must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the demanding requirements of § 311 are present. In re Adoption of Farabelli, 460 Pa. 423, 427, 333 A.2d 846, 848 (1975); In re Adoption of McAhern, infra; In re Geiger, 459 Pa. 636, 331 A.2d 172, 173 (1975). When a hearing judge concludes that this burden has not been met, his decision will be disturbed on appeal only if it is not supported by competent evidence. See e. g., In re Adoption of Farabelli, supra. In this appeal, the Densons contend that the evidence presented at the hearing satisfies the standards of both § 311(1) and § 311(2). As indicated above, we do not agree. For convenience, we shall treat appellants' contentions in reverse order.
Section 311(2) of the Adoption Act states that parental rights may be involuntarily terminated on the ground that:
"[t]he repeated and continued incapacity, abuse, neglect, or refusal of the parent has caused the child to be without essential parental care, control, or subsistence necessary for his physical or mental well-being and the conditions and causes of the incapacity, abuse, neglect, or refusal cannot or will not be remedied by the parent."
Under the terms of the section it is not sufficient merely to establish that repeated and continued incapacity, neglect or refusal of the parent caused the child to be without essential parental care; it is necessary to show also ...