Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, No. 00664 Harrisburg 1984.
Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. McDermott, J., concurred in the result. Nix, C.j., filed a dissenting opinion in which Flaherty, J., joined. Flaherty, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Nix, C.j., joined.
This is an appeal from an order of the Superior Court which reversed a decree of the Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of York County. Appellee's parental rights to her son, C.A.E.,*fn1 were terminated following
the Orphans' Court's determination that Appellant York County Children and Youth Services (hereinafter YCCS) had shown by clear and convincing evidence that the factors listed in 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511 were present in this case and that Appellee was incapable of caring for her son. On appeal, the Superior Court reversed, holding that YCCS had not established Appellee's incapacity by clear and convincing evidence. We hold that Superior Court exceeded its scope of review and, accordingly, reverse.
Appellee's child was one of triplets born four months premature on September 17, 1982. Two of the triplets died shortly after birth. He suffered and continues to suffer from numerous medical problems. He remained in the hospital for almost fourteen months after birth and requires, and will continue to require, constant medical care. During the fourteen months C.A.E. was in the hospital, Appellee visited him infrequently and made no effort to learn to care for him.
In July 1983, YCCS filed a petition for custody with the Juvenile Division of the Court of Common Pleas of York County. The child was adjudged to be dependent, and his custody was awarded to YCCS for foster care. He remained in the hospital until December 1983, when he was released into the custody of foster parents.
In November 1984, Appellee revoked her previous consent to give C.A.E. up to foster parents. A number of hearings were held, at one of which the father's parental rights were terminated without opposition.*fn2 Following the hearings, the Orphans' Court terminated Appellee's parental rights. Superior Court reversed.
We recently reaffirmed that the scope of appellate review where the Orphans' Court has involuntarily terminated a natural parent's right to a child is limited to the determination of whether the decree of termination is supported by competent evidence. See In re Adoption of Page 422} Faith M., 509 Pa. 238, 240, 501 A.2d 1105, 1106 (1985), and cases cited therein. The burden is on the party seeking termination to show by "clear and convincing" evidence that grounds to terminate exist. Id., 509 Pa. at 240, 501 A.2d at 1106; In the Matter of the Adoption of G.T.M., 506 Pa. 44, 46, 483 A.2d 1355, 1356 (1984).
The Superior Court recognized the proper standard of review. We find, however, that Superior Court misapplied the standard -- erroneously substituting its own independent interpretation of the facts as it perceived them to be from the record.
The statutory grounds upon which the Orphans' Court based its termination decree are found in 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(2), (5). These sections provide:
(a) General rule. -- The rights of a parent in regard to a child may be terminated after a petition filed on ...