No. 2272 October Term, 1979, Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, of Lehigh County at No. 215 J of 1977.
John B. Dunn, Allentown, for appellant.
Malcolm J. Gross, Allentown, for participating parties.
Spaeth, Hester and Cavanaugh, JJ.
[ 290 Pa. Super. Page 405]
This is an appeal by Debra K., the natural mother of Joseph Lee. Joseph Lee was adjudicated dependent and his custody was transferred from the appellant to the Lehigh County Office of Children and Youth Services. The mother does not challenge the finding of dependency, but claims that the child was removed from her custody absent the requisite proof of clear necessity. We disagree and affirm the order of the lower court.
The child was born May 10, 1976. He was initially placed with Children and Youth Services (hereinafter C&YS) in June, 1977. On June 29, 1978, he was returned to his mother with the proviso that his care remain under the supervision of C&YS for at least six months. The mother's failure to care for her son adequately during this period prompted the commencement of the instant action. Diane Avila, the mother's caseworker, filed a petition alleging dependency pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 6334.
When the child was returned to his mother's custody his speaking ability was average for a child of his age. However, once at home this ability deteriorated and a treatment plan was formulated. The child was to attend the Lehigh Valley Child Care Center where he would be given professional speech therapy. Because his home environment was deemed to be critical, a home visitor, Carol Barrett, was assigned to work with the mother and child in their home. Her objective was to teach the mother parenting skills to enable her to function as the child's primary educator. According to testimony, this was an essential adjunct to the professional speech therapy because the child's problem required constant work.
[ 290 Pa. Super. Page 406]
There is no dispute as to the seriousness of Joey's speech problem. Without therapy the prognosis was bleak. Susan L. Moon, Director of the Speech, Language and Hearing Service of Lehigh County, testified to this as follows:
Q. How important in the overall scheme of this child's development are the areas that you have noted here today?
A. Extremely important. If the child is not understanding language he's going to have a very difficult time in school. If a child is not able to express himself he will not be able to attend, you know, a normal school program.
Q. What will happen if this child does not receive the therapy and home stimulation that you have recommended? What will happen to him?
A. I think he's just going to continue to remain on the level that he's currently functioning on but as he increases in age there's going to be more and more of a gap between where he should be performing and where he is performing and special provisions will have to be made in school.
Q. Will that affect his ability to progress in school if he doesn't move forward in language?
Q. Will it affect his ability to function as a human being?
The program, however, was a failure. The child attended 58 out of 160 day case sessions between July, 1978 and April, 1979. Most of the days he attended were during the first few months of the program. Because of his poor attendance, the child could not receive speech therapy and funds were finally withdrawn. The Home Start Program which Carol Barrett ran also failed. The mother was only available for twenty-nine per cent of the weekly visits which had been arranged. The visits were arranged at the mother's convenience for the same time and day each week. Often the mother would not ...