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filed: January 4, 1980.


No. 1048 April Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County at No. 69 Juvenile Court, 1978.


Frederick W. Heintz, Jr., Uniontown, for appellants.

Lynn N. Crenney, Uniontown, for appellee.

Price, Hester and Montgomery, JJ.

Author: Price

[ 273 Pa. Super. Page 540]

This is an appeal by Patricia Ohler and George Albert Black, the parents of an infant, James Albert Black, from the hearing court's finding that this child is a "deprived child" within the meaning of the Juvenile Act,*fn1 and award of legal custody to the Fayette County Child Welfare Services (CWS). Because we find no merit in the issues raised on appeal, we affirm the order of the hearing court.

James Albert Black, born on April 28, 1978, was released directly into the care of CWS in accordance with a temporary order entered on May 2, 1978. A hearing was held on June 2, 1978, on petition from a social worker at CWS, to make the determination of deprivation. The following evidence was adduced at that hearing.

The natural mother, Patricia Ohler, was unmarried and twenty years of age at the time of the hearing. Her first child Ida Marie Ohler, was born June 5, 1975, and died on March 17, 1976, at the age of nine months, twelve days as a result of dehydration and toxemia. At the time of death, she was also suffering from malnutrition. Nurse Zeman, a registered nurse, testified at the hearing that the symptoms of dehydration are dry, cracked mucous membrane and lips, sunken eyeballs, poor turgor of the skin, white or clay colored stools, and reddish brown, concentrated urine with a foul smell. She also testified that it takes a baby one to two months to die from dehydration. The mother testified that she had not noticed any symptoms.

[ 273 Pa. Super. Page 541]

The second child born to Ms. Ohler also died shortly after birth. That child, William Lee Black, was born to Ms. Ohler and George Albert Black on February 26, 1977, and died on April 5, 1978, at the age of one year and nine days. The immediate cause of death was tyogenic broncho pneumonia with bilateral respiratory insufficiency, which evidences itself with the following symptoms: a definite wheeze, cough, sniffles, sneezing, ashen grey to blue coloring, breathing through the mouth and poor appetite. On April 4, 1978, the parents had taken William Lee to the emergency room of the Connellsville State Hospital at around 6:00 p. m. The child was released, and the parents were given a prescription for an antibiotic. The prescription was never filled, although the parents could have filled it free of charge by using a medical card they possessed through the welfare agency. Other evidence indicated that the child spent the night in a car with his parents even though the weather was cold that night. On April 5, 1978, the child was dead on arrival at the Connellsville State Hospital. Although appellants had left William Lee with relatives on the morning of the day he died, testimony indicated that the symptoms would probably be noticeable for a period of hours before death. The mother said, however, that she had noticed none.

The dwelling in which appellants resided during most of William Lee's life was a large farm house located in Dunbar. Testimony revealed that the house was filthy, with garbage cluttering every room. Human waste was accumulated in buckets and jugs and also in the bathtub as a result of the lack of toilet facilities occasioned by the water company discontinuing service. During winter months, only two or three rooms of the house were habitable due to a lack of heat because the electric company had terminated the electricity. Heat was provided by burning automobile tires in a stove given to the occupants of the house by a neighbor. Photographs of both the interior and exterior of the house were admitted into evidence to verify the accuracy of the testimony of the witnesses.

[ 273 Pa. Super. Page 542]

Appellants apparently moved to a house in Dawson a few days prior to the death of William Lee.*fn2 A case worker for the Fayette County Board of Assistance testified to the condition of this house, describing it as "somewhat cluttered," "not exactly" clean, and "below average in comparison to other families." (N.T. Vol. 2 at 19-20). Photographs of this home were also admitted into evidence and corroborated the dirty and disorderly nature of the environment. ...

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