Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, of Lehigh County, No. 30 J, 1987.
Sheila J. Fisher, Lancaster, for appellants.
Rowley, Wieand and Beck, JJ.
[ 380 Pa. Super. Page 424]
The appeal now being considered by this Court was taken from an order which continued custody of a dependent child in the Lehigh County Office of Children and Youth Services (CYS), reduced the number of authorized visits by the biological parents, and allowed the termination of support services for the parents. The parents contend that the trial court failed to make adequate findings, as required by 42 Pa.C.S. § 6351(f), and that the court's order was not in the best interests of the child. We find no merit in the parents' arguments and affirm the order of the trial court.
Janet Lynn Miller was born June 5, 1986 to Charles and Lorraine Miller. She was the Millers' third child. The first child had been taken from the Millers and placed in foster care by CYS in 1972 because of the mother's intellectual limitations, her lack of parenting skills, and also because of suspected child abuse. The second child born to the Millers had been taken from the hospital upon birth and placed directly in foster care. Therefore, CYS was familiar with Lorraine Miller's intellectual limitations and her inability to parent even before Janet Lynn was born. Upon Janet Lynn's birth, support services were immediately instituted
[ 380 Pa. Super. Page 425]
to help the mother with basic parenting skills. Visiting nurses went to the home three times a week to assist in bathing and feeding the child. A representative of Home Start Services spent an hour a week with the mother to assist her in basic child care; and the Wiley House Parents Sponsorship Program also sent a woman who visited the home two or three times a week. Finally, a caseworker from CYS remained in touch with the parents and visited once a week.
Janet Lynn Miller was adjudicated dependent on February 20, 1987, when she was eight months old. Under the court's order, physical custody was to remain with the child's parents, conditioned upon their properly feeding, bathing, and caring for their infant daughter. Although full support services continued, the mother nevertheless experienced serious difficulty in providing basic child care. The infant was not being bathed properly, was being fed irregularly, and was being given foods which were either inappropriate or spoiled.
On April 20, 1987, the child was removed from her parents' home on an emergency basis because she was not being fed properly. Thereafter, the services of Wiley House and the Visiting Nurses were discontinued, but the Home Start worker continued to visit the home to assist the child's mother in learning basic child care skills. On May 4, 1987, an agreed order was entered which continued the child's dependency status and her placement in foster care. Visitation for the parents was arranged as follows: one hour per week to be spent at the Easter Seal Society's Infant Stimulation Program to assist the parents and child to deal with the child's developmental delay; one hour per week at CYS with the active participation of a Home Start Worker; and one hour per week at CYS to be observed by agency caseworkers. The order also provided that the mother was to participate in a specialized counseling program sponsored by the Mental Health/Mental Retardation Center in order to learn basic skills such as personal hygiene, cooking and washing clothes.
[ 380 Pa. Super. Page 426]
On July 2, 1987, another agreed order was entered which continued the child's dependency status and her placement in foster care. The parties also agreed to enlarge the visitation between parents and child at CYS. This was intended to permit greater opportunity to evaluate the progress, if any, which the parents were making in learning child care skills.
On October 30, 1987, a review hearing was held. At that hearing, testimony was received from Dr. Gerald A. Zimmerman, a psychologist affiliated with the Wiley House Child and Family Guidance Center. He said that the father had a dependent personality and the mother, who is mildly retarded, had deficiencies in her ability to think and to parent children. In his opinion, to teach the mother caretaking skills and the development of appropriate expectations for the child would require supervision for as much as sixteen hours a day. Another expert, Edward R. Dubin, a licensed psychologist, testified that although the parents had made some progress in learning basic parenting skills, their progress was too slow to enable them to keep pace with the changing needs of the maturing child. He opined that the parents would never learn sufficient parenting skills to allow them to regain custody of their child. He recommended that services intended to aid in the achievement of that goal be terminated and that visitation be reduced.
A social worker who had observed the visitations testified that the mother had been "extremely rough" with the child. The witness voiced a fear that the mother would unintentionally hurt the child. She reported that the parents had failed to respond in a meaningful way when the child placed inappropriate objects in her mouth. She also testified that on one occasion a caseworker had found it necessary to intervene because the child had been choking, and on another occasion she herself had had to ...