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LISA WHITTLE (02/15/79)

decided: February 15, 1979.

IN THE INTEREST OF LISA WHITTLE, A MINOR. APPEAL OF IVA WHITTLE


No. 559 April Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Family Division, Juvenile Section, Entered November 30, 1977 at Docket No. J. 3387-1977.

COUNSEL

Daniel P. McDyer, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Sarah C. McIntyre, Pittsburgh, for appellee, Lisa Whittle.

Charles T. Pankow, Assistant County Solicitor, Pittsburgh, for appellee, Child Welfare.

Cercone, Wieand and Hoffman, JJ.

Author: Hoffman

[ 263 Pa. Super. Page 314]

On November 30, 1977, Lisa Whittle, two years old, was declared dependent and placed in the custody of the Allegheny County Child Welfare Services (CWS). This appeal is brought by Lisa's mother, Iva Whittle, who seeks to regain custody. We will affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand with directions for the entry of an appropriate order.

Mrs. Whittle is a widow who currently is raising her three other children -- William, six, Charles, three, and Sherry, one -- in her home. On May 11, 1977, Mrs. Whittle placed Lisa and Charles in the bathtub while she cleaned the kitchen. Upon hearing Lisa scream, she returned to the bathroom to find that Charles had turned on the scalding hot water from the but's faucet. He had climbed out but Lisa was still in the but. Mrs. Whittle pulled her out, and took her to Allegheny County General Hospital. Lisa was immediately transferred to the burn unit of West Penn Hospital, where she remained in critical condition with first, second, and third degree burns of her feet, legs, and hands, until June 27, 1977. The next day she was transferred to the pediatric unit, and the court below, after a hearing, entered a shelter order pursuant to 11 P.S. ยง 50-309 giving temporary custody of Lisa to CWS. Five months later, CWS filed a dependency petition, and on November 30, 1977, the court below held a hearing at which the following evidence was produced.

Martin Hako, a caseworker for CWS, stated that CWS wanted Lisa declared dependent because Mrs. Whittle would be unable to give Lisa the care necessary for Lisa's recovery. His basis for this conclusion was that the care she needed was both time-consuming and required special training. Mrs. Whittle was not so trained, and had to care for three other children. One of these children, Sherry, had developed a skin rash on her legs, and Mrs. Whittle had to devote considerable time to Sherry in this regard. Mr. Hako also felt that Sherry was not receiving proper care but admitted

[ 263 Pa. Super. Page 315]

    that Sherry's rash had just recently cleared up. He admitted that CWS had not attempted to teach Mrs. Whittle the special care which Lisa would require nor offered any other support services to her. He also stated that the Whittle home was clean and well-kept and that the children were clean, well-fed, and generally well cared for in their home.

Susan Boule, a registered home care nurse from West Penn Hospital, testified that Lisa needs to have a cream applied to her feet twice daily. She must continually wear special Jobst stockings, which must be changed daily. She also has certain dietary restrictions and requires daily physical therapy. If this care, especially the cream and Jobst stockings, is not diligently administered, Lisa will suffer contractures of her feet. Her toes would curl up, requiring surgery, and scar tissue would develop causing a permanent crippling effect. However, Nurse Boule stated that this special care is not difficult to teach and could be learned by an ordinary person -- prior medical training would not be necessary. In fact, CWS called Nurse Boule into Lisa's foster home to teach her foster mother how to administer this care. Nurse Boule confirmed that CWS never asked her to teach this care to Mrs. Whittle.

Bernice Wilson is the foster mother into whose home CWS placed Lisa. Mrs. Wilson estimated that changing the stockings and applying the cream takes about 2 1/2 hours each day. The physical therapy is not ...


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