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MATTER ADOPTION A.K.M. AND S.M.C. APPEAL D.D.H.C. (02/03/86)

filed: February 3, 1986.

IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF A.K.M. AND S.M.C. APPEAL OF D.D.H.C.


Appeal from the Order entered October 24, 1984, in the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, Orphans No. 13 in Adoption 1984.

COUNSEL

Marilyn Woolery, Erie, for appellant.

Ronald L. Slater, Erie, for appellee.

Rowley, Olszewski and Del Sole, JJ. Olszewski, J., files a concurring and dissenting opinion.

Author: Del Sole

[ 350 Pa. Super. Page 582]

This case comes to us on appeal from the trial court order which terminated the Appellant's parental rights in her two daughters, A.K.M. and S.M.C. Because the evidence relied on by the trial court to support the termination decrees is not clear and convincing, we reverse.

[ 350 Pa. Super. Page 583]

At a young age, the Appellant was adjudicated a dependent child and was placed under the care of Children's Services. In 1978, when the Appellant was sixteen years old, her first child, A.K.M. was born. A.K.M. lived with her mother for nearly two years before being placed in the home of her maternal grandparents. The child remained there for four years; she has recently been removed to a foster home.

Appellant's younger daughter, S.M.C. was born in 1981. She lived with her mother for fifteen months, at which time the Appellant voluntarily relinquished custody to a close friend. When this friend was no longer able to care for S.M.C. the child was adjudicated a dependent and placed in a foster home.

On several occasions beginning in September, 1980, the court directed the Appellant to obtain mental health counseling, cooperate with Children's Services and public health nurses, attend parenting classes, gain employment or obtain vocational training, maintain a residence and stabilize her relationships with men. For several years, on an inconsistent basis, Appellant attempted to achieve these goals.

Two hearings were held in the spring of 1984, after which time the court issued an order terminating the Appellant's parental rights in A.K.M. and S.M.C. Appellant now challenges this order and alleges that the statutory requirements of 23 Pa.C.S.A. ยงยง 2511(a)(2) and (a)(5) were not satisfied by a showing of clear and convincing evidence; that the lower court improperly considered the best interests of the children in terminating the Appellant's parental rights; and that the trial court failed to acknowledge the interference caused by Children's Services in the Appellant's relationship with her children.*fn1

The sections of the statute which the trial court relied on to terminate the Appellant's parental rights provide as follows:

[ 350 Pa. Super. Page 584]

    proceeding be clear and convincing evidence. In establishing this rule the Supreme Court stated:

The fundamental liberty interest of natural parents in the care, custody, and management of their child does not evaporate simply because they have not been model parents or have lost temporary custody of their child to the State. Even when blood relationships are strained, parents retain a vital interest in preventing the irretrievable destruction of their family life. If anything, persons faced with forced dissolution of their parental rights have a more critical need for procedural protections than do those resisting state intervention into ongoing family affairs. When the State moves to destroy weakened familial bonds, it must provide the parents with fundamentally fair procedures.

Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 102 S.Ct. 1388, 71 L.Ed.2d 599 (1982).

It is well settled in Pennsylvania that when an appellate court is faced with a termination of parental rights case, it must employ a broad scope of review. Matter of Adoption of Baby Boy Allen, 337 Pa. Super. 133, 486 A.2d 517 (1984); In re Adoption of Michael J.C., 506 Pa. 517, 486 A.2d 371 (1984); Matter of Adoption of Ferrante, 334 Pa. Super. 53, 482 A.2d 1076 (1984); In re Baby Boy P., 333 Pa. Super. 462, 482 A.2d 660 (1984); In re Adoption of James J., 332 Pa. Super. 486, 481 A.2d 892 (1984) (en banc). In the latter case, this Court carefully noted a distinction between the duties imposed on the trial and appellate courts. It indicated that while the lower court is obligated to draw a conclusion based on clear and convincing evidence, the appellate court must ensure that the trial court has satisfactorily examined all evidentiary resources, has conducted a full hearing, and has set forth its decision in a full discursive opinion. James J., 332 Pa. Superior Ct. at 491, ...


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