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M. L. H. APPEAL M.H. AND J.H. (05/30/80)

decided: May 30, 1980.

IN RE M. L. H. APPEAL OF M.H. AND J.H.


No. 67 March Term, 1979, Appeal from the Final Decree of the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, Orphans' Court Division at No. 19 Adoption, 1978, Dated March 22, 1979.

COUNSEL

Richard J. Bedford, Southern Allegheny Legal Aid, Inc., Somerset, for appellant.

William L. Kimmel, Kim R. Gibson, Somerset, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ.

Author: Roberts

[ 490 Pa. Page 55]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellants, the parents of M.L.H., contend that the Orphans' Court of Somerset County improperly terminated their parental rights on evidence insufficient to support that decision. We disagree and affirm the decree of termination.

On December 26, 1976, appellant, fourteen-year-old J.B.H., gave birth to a son, M.L.H. The mother and child moved to the trailer home of Mrs. H., the paternal grandmother of M.L.H., where appellant, the child's father, sixteen-year-old M.D.H. also resided. Shortly thereafter, appellee Child Welfare

[ 490 Pa. Page 56]

Agency of Somerset County visited the trailer home and found that the trailer was "cramped, dirty and cold." As a result, the orphans' court directed that the child be removed from the home and placed with foster parents. M.L.H. resided in the foster home from December 30, 1976, throughout these proceedings.

After placement of the child with the foster parents, appellants contacted the Agency about the boy only sporadically during the next year. The first contact was a telephone call placed to the Agency on February 15, 1977. During March, 1977, appellants separately visited M.L.H. Subsequent visits by the mother occurred in April, July, October and December of 1977.

After the July, 1977 visit, M.L.H. suffered a severe emotional reaction which necessitated force feeding by syringe. During the October, 1977 visit the boy's crying would stop only when the foster mother held the child. Observable, problem behavior continued for approximately one month after that visit. In May, 1978, a visit requested by Mrs. H. was cancelled because a physician treating the boy for an intestinal problem thought the visit might aggravate the boy's condition.

After the birth of a second child on April 25, 1978, appellants married and requested that the Agency return M.L.H. to them. An Agency case worker again visited appellants' trailer home and, although finding some improvements in the living conditions, decided that the child should not be returned at that time. Instead, the Agency suggested that appellants voluntarily relinquish their parental rights in M.L.H. In the Agency's view, the child's interests would best be served by allowing the foster parents to adopt the boy. Appellants declined this suggestion and next visited the child on July 12, 1978. This visit lasted only forty minutes because M.L.H. screamed when left alone with his natural parents. Following the July 12 ...


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