No. 26 March Term 1978, Appeal from the final decree of the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County, Orphans' Court Division, at No. 17 Adoption 1977.
H. Edwin Mountford, Southern Alleghenys Legal Aid, Inc., Somerset, for appellants.
William L. Kimmel, County Sol., Somerset, for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino, Larsen and Flaherty, JJ. Manderino, J., did not participate in the decision of this case.
This is an appeal from a decree of the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County, Orphans' Court Division, involuntarily terminating the parental rights of C. W. B. and S. W. B. with respect to their son, J. A. B. (hereinafter: "J."). The case arose from a petition filed on August 16, 1977, by the Somerset County Child Welfare Agency requesting termination of parental rights pursuant to section 311 of the Adoption Act.*fn1
J., born August 16, 1969, is one of six children of C. W. B. and S. W. B. In September and October of 1973, the B. family experienced serious problems. Specifically, the parents became unable to cope with J.'s hyperactivity and destructive behavior. J., who was four years old at the time, would regularly awaken at 5:00 a. m., go downstairs, open the refrigerator, break all the eggs, and smash tomatoes on the floor. Further, although he was fully toilet trained, J. would defecate on the floor and wipe the walls with excrement. The parents sought help from the Cambria County Child Welfare Agency in procuring medication to control J.'s hyperactivity. However, this approach to the problem was abandoned since one type of pill prescribed by the City Clinic made J. more active and the second type over-tranquilized him. Because the parents recognized that J. had special and greater needs than their five other children, they tried to spend as much time as possible with him alone. One parent would remain at home with the five children while the other parent took J. on shopping trips and errands. The father asserted that, as a result, J. received more love and attention than any other child in the family.
Despite these efforts, J. became more difficult to control and the parents, who were also beset with financial difficulties,*fn2 once again turned to outside help. Although the family had recently moved to Somerset County, the parents returned to the Cambria County agency seeking foster home
placement for J. They were referred to the Somerset County Child Welfare Agency. At about the same time, the Somerset County agency received a report that the children were unsupervised and playing around the railroad tracks near their home.
Pursuant to the parents' contacts, the Somerset County agency investigated the B. home. The agency discussed the family's problems with the parents who agreed to place J. in a foster home. The parents then signed a Parent Placement Agreement on October 4, 1973. Both parents testified that they took this action hoping a foster family would be able to help J. and teach him right from wrong. They also understood that the placement would be temporary. The agency director, who assisted in arranging the placement, testified that the parents were frustrated and unable to cope with J.'s disruptive behavior. She further testified that, while the parents felt badly about J.'s departure, they were not angry with the agency, but were relieved by the prospect that J. might receive the help he needed. At that time, the parents were given a card bearing the agency's name, address and telephone ...