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INVOLUNTARY TERMINATION PARENTAL RIGHTS TO W. M. (10/05/78)

decided: October 5, 1978.

IN RE INVOLUNTARY TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS TO W. M., III. APPEAL OF W. AND P. M.


No. 422 January Term, 1976, Appeal from Decree of the Court of Common Pleas, Orphans' Court Division, Lancaster County, No. 1017-1/2, 1975 Term, dated March 18, 1976

COUNSEL

Central Pa. Legal Services, James D. Wolman, Alan Linder, Lancaster, for appellant.

Alspach & Ryder, Bruce P. Ryder, Lancaster, for appellee, Bureau of Children's Services, Etc.

Eagen, O'Brien, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Manderino, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Nix, J., joins. Jones, Former C. J., and Roberts, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 482 Pa. Page 124]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal from a decree of the court of common pleas, orphans' court division, of Lancaster County terminating the parental rights of the appellants, W.M. and P.M. (hereinafter the "parents"), with respect to their son, W.M., III (hereinafter "W").*fn1 Appellants allege that the evidence

[ 482 Pa. Page 125]

    was insufficient to support the termination decree. We disagree, and will affirm.

The parents were married in 1954 and have had six children, of whom W., born October 30, 1963, is the youngest. The family has been known to the Bureau of Children's Service of Lancaster County (herein "Bureau" or "Agency"), appellee herein, since 1956, the agency having been involved with the placement of older children. Over a four-year period subsequent to W's birth numerous visits were made to the home by caseworkers on the staff of the Bureau. Reports of these visits contained in the Bureau's files indicate that the M's house was generally dark, filthy and without heat in cold weather except for an inadequate oil burner. A "terrible" odor permeated the living quarters and the children were unkempt and frequently in need of a change of diapers or clothing. Upon a number of occasions the parents were warned by the caseworkers of the need to upgrade conditions in the home. These warnings went unheeded, however, and the situation in the house remained unchanged. As a result, W. was placed in a foster home in August of 1967, and custody was formally awarded to the Bureau following a court hearing on October 31, 1967.

Over the next four years there was no contact between the parents and the Bureau. The parents made no effort to see W., made no inquiry as to his health or well-being, and sent him no gifts or cards. At the Bureau's initiative a meeting was held with the parents in October of 1971. The condition of the parents' home was discussed, but neither parent expressed any interest in seeing the child. There was no further contact until June of 1973, when the Bureau made two visits to appellants' home concerning one of the other children. Again the home was found to be dirty, dark and foul smelling. On neither of these occasions did the parents mention or inquire as to W. In March of 1975, after the lapse of another sixteen months, a caseworker informed the parents that involuntary termination proceedings were

[ 482 Pa. Page 126]

    to be pursued by the Agency.*fn2 There have been no subsequent encounters between ...


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