No. 193 March Term, 1978, Appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Orphans' Court Division, at No. 135 of 1977, dated October 19, 1978
Alton P. Arnold, Jr., Mark Greenblatt, Neighborhood Legal Services Association, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Alexander J. Jaffurs, County Sol., James A. Esler, Cheryl Allen Craig, Asst. County Sol., Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Eagan, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino, Larsen and Flaherty, JJ. Manderino, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Nix, J., joined.
Appellee, the Allegheny County Institution District, petitioned the Court of Common Pleas, Orphans' Court Division of Allegheny County, for involuntary termination of parental rights and duties of the natural mother of Amanda Green, appellant's minor daughter. The petition alleged that appellant, Amanda's mother, failed to perform parental duties for a period of time in excess of six months and thus should have her parental rights involuntarily terminated under section 311(1) of the 1970 Adoption Act.*fn1 After a hearing on the matter, the lower court entered a decree, on August 9, 1978, which terminated appellant's parental rights and awarded custody of the child to appellee until such time as she is adopted. Appellant, thereupon, filed timely exceptions to the decree of the Orphans' Court. By order of the court en banc, these exceptions were dismissed, and this direct appeal followed.*fn2
The record established that Amanda Green was born to appellant and her husband, Carter T. Green, on March 19, 1965. At some period of time during her pregnancy, appellant became a patient at Mayview State Hospital, and she was not released therefrom until some six or seven months after the birth of her daughter. On April 21, 1965, the infant was adjudicated a "dependent" by the Juvenile Court of Allegheny County and, thereupon she was placed in the care of a foster home, supervision of which was transferred to Child Welfare Services, an agency of the appellee, on January 2, 1969. Amanda has lived in this foster home from shortly following her birth until the present time. After appellant was discharged from Mayview State Hospital, she began to visit with her daughter. Her contacts with Amanda were infrequent and sporadic, up to and including the period of time upon which appellee's petition for involuntary termination of parental rights was predicated.*fn3 According to appellee's petition: "from March, 1975 until December 14, 1976 [appellant] failed to visit the child or send any gifts, cards or letters to the child. During this time the mother did not financially support the child nor did she perform any parental duties whatsoever." [Petition, paragraph 6].
Appellant first contends in this appeal that the evidence and testimony were insufficient to establish that appellant had failed to perform parental duties for at least six months and that, accordingly, involuntary termination was not warranted. We disagree with appellant.
Testimony of caseworkers established that during this period of time, a period in excess of twenty months, appellant had but one contact with her daughter and this sole contact was occasioned by the presence of Amanda at the funeral service held for her father on January 7, 1976. This same testimony revealed that appellant neither contributed to Amanda's support nor did she send cards, gifts, or letters to the child to compensate for her absence. As to the
absence of contact with the child during the period set forth in appellee's petition, appellant justified her failure to visit by testifying that despite persistent efforts by telephone, she was unable to contact a caseworker assigned to her because of the frequent turnover of caseworkers at Child Welfare Services. On the basis of the evidence and testimony presented, the lower court concluded that ...