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ADOPTION A.N.D. APPEAL S.L.D. (12/03/86)

filed: December 3, 1986.


Appeal from the Decree of July 17, 1986, in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Orphans Court, at No. 128-85.


Suzanne Noble, Chester, for appellant.

Cavanaugh, McEwen and Beck, JJ. Cavanaugh, J. concurs in result.

Author: Beck

[ 360 Pa. Super. Page 159]

This is an appeal by the natural mother from a final order terminating her parental rights. We affirm.

While in the hospital, the natural mother initially consented to the adoption of Baby A., born December 1984. After leaving the hospital and learning she would only receive compensation for medical bills, she revoked her consent. She then cared for Baby A. for over six months, while staying with her current boyfriend's family and receiving their help. The record reveals that during this period, she did not show affection towards Baby A. and was anxious to let others take care of the Baby. On Easter 1985, she attempted to relinquish custody of Baby A. to the natural father who had denied paternity and was not supporting the child. She changed her mind again. In July, 1985, when forced to change residences, she made her third conscious decision to give up Baby A. She contacted a private intermediary,

[ 360 Pa. Super. Page 160]

    an attorney, and demanded he arrange for an immediate adoption. He advised her fully of the consequences of her act and confirmed her awareness of alternative possibilities. She executed a consent to adoption on July 12, 1985. The next day, Baby A. was placed with appellees, the adoption couple.

Appellees filed their report of intention to adopt and petitioned to terminate the rights of the natural parents. The natural father had consented, and his rights were terminated. Appellant officially withdrew her consent on September 22, 1985, and requested custody and visitation. The court denied the request and ordered a home study, psychological and psychiatric evaluations. After hearing in January 1986, appellant's rights were terminated.

The home study focused on three areas: housing, employment and familial resources. The social worker determined there was no long-term stability in any of these areas. Although she found one familial resource, the family with whom appellant was residing, that family had asked appellant to leave the weekend before the hearing. At the time of hearing, appellant was twenty-two years old, pregnant, moving for the fourth time in a twelve-month period and had recently been fired from two jobs because of absences from work.

Dr. James Ewing, the court-appointed psychiatrist, diagnosed appellant's condition as a dependent personality disorder and possibly a passive-aggressive personality disorder. He testified that appellant currently lacked the capacity to parent. He further testified that there was a possibility, but not likelihood, of her developing the capacity after treatment for at least nine months to one year.

Dr. Robert Keller, the psychologist testifying for appellant, confirmed a personality disorder with passive aggressive features affecting appellant's current ability to parent. He believed that if appellant stayed in therapy, there was a fairly good chance that some of her substantial problems could be resolved.

[ 360 Pa. Super. Page 161]

The court-appointed guardian ad litem recommended termination. He determined that during the six months before the hearing, appellant had done nothing to remedy her situation. She had not initiated therapy or formulated a substantial plan for housing, working or care for Baby A. He also was concerned about appellant's potential to take care of Baby A. and the baby she was currently expecting.

The record reveals the court also considered other indicia of appellant's capacity and willingness to parent. She had a psychological history of emotional disturbance. Appellant was a victim of child abuse and had attempted suicide at least once. In October 1980, she married. At that time she was receiving psychiatric treatment. Later she moved to Canada with her husband and had two sons who are now in the custody of their father. In early 1981, she and her husband had marital counseling. During the next two years appellant had difficulty maintaining the house and raising two young sons. In early 1983, she negligently poisoned her younger, two-month old son. The baby, however, was not permanently harmed. The social worker who counseled the couple previously, intervened and gave appellant psychological therapy. A nutrition aide and a homemaker were assigned to help her in part with her parenting skills. The homemaker aided appellant for almost nine months but she made no progress. Despite therapy and help, appellant's parenting ability did not improve and she showed no potential for change. In December 1983, appellant returned to Pennsylvania where she resumed relations with Baby A.'s father and developed a drug abuse problem. She was shooting cocaine and smoking marijuana.

In the context of terminating parental rights, competing interests must be considered: that of the parents to raise the child as they see fit and that of the child to mature in a healthful environment. As a third party, the state has the dual interest in preserving family autonomy and in protecting children.

A child's biological parents have a blood-tie to the child that gives them first right in possession ...

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