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In re D.S.

July 23, 2009

IN RE: D.S. AND M.S., MINOR CHILDREN,
APPEAL OF: D.B., GRANDMOTHER,



Appeal from the Order Entered August 27, 2008 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Family Court at No(s): J.# 46153601, Petition Nos. 6122-07-08, 6123-07-08.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stevens, J.

BEFORE: STEVENS, KLEIN, and KELLY, JJ.

OPINION

¶ 1 D.B. ("Grandmother") appeals from the August 27, 2008 order entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County concluding that Grandmother did not have standing to participate in the dependency proceedings and vacating the appointment of Grandmother's counsel. We affirm.

¶ 2 D.S. (d.o.b. 6/23/99) and M.S. (d.o.b. 7/15/04) ("Children") were residing with their mother ("Mother") in Washoe County, Nevada, when the Nevada trial court adjudicated them dependent on October 31, 2005. The Washoe County Department of Social Services ("WCDSS") worked with the Children's parents to meet their Family Service Plan ("FSP") objectives, but both parents failed to substantially comply with them. WCDSS concurrently filed an Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children ("ICPC") in order for the Children to be placed with their Grandmother who resided in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The ICPC was approved on August 16, 2006, and the Children were placed with Grandmother. The Philadelphia Department of Human Services ("DHS") agreed to accept the Children and filed a dependency petition on August 13, 2007. Trial Court Opinion, 1/7/09, at 2.

¶ 3 Based on their parents' inability to care for them, the trial court adjudicated the Children dependent on August 14, 2007, and committed them to the supervision of DHS. The trial court ruled that the Children should remain with their Grandmother and Step-Grandfather. However, in the fall of 2007, during the course of their investigation to qualify Grandmother as a foster parent, DHS discovered that Step-Grandfather had a twelve-year-old conviction for aggravated assault. DHS then disqualified Grandmother as a foster parent pursuant to the Children's Protective Services Law ("CPSL"), which indicates that a home cannot be approved as a foster home, if a household member of the foster home has a criminal conviction for certain specific offenses, including aggravated assault. See 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6344; Trial Court Opinion, 1/7/09, at 2.

¶ 4 Following DHS's disqualification of Grandmother as a foster parent for the Children, DHS removed the Children from Grandmother's home and placed them in another foster home. On December 10, 2007, the trial court appointed counsel for Grandmother and ordered that the Children remain in the foster home to which they had been transferred. In addition, the trial court granted Grandmother weekly unsupervised visits with the Children on the condition that Step-Grandfather would not have any contact with them. The Children were subsequently moved to the home of a maternal cousin. Trial Court Opinion, 1/7/09, at 3.

¶ 5 At a hearing on May 5, 2008, Grandmother raised the issue of whether she had standing to participate in the dependency hearings. N.T., 5/5/08, at 33-35. At that time, the trial court requested that the parties file briefs concerning the issue of standing. On August 27, 2008, the trial court issued an order finding that Grandmother did not have standing to participate in the dependency proceedings and vacated the appointment of Grandmother's counsel. Trial Court Opinion, 1/7/09, at 3.

¶ 6 On September 15, 2008, Grandmother filed a motion to reconsider the trial court's denial of standing, and, on the same date, the trial court denied Grandmother's motion for reconsideration. At that time, Grandmother also requested a stay of the denial of court-appointed counsel for the purpose of filing an appeal, and the trial court denied the request. The trial court docketed Grandmother's timely notice of appeal on August 28, 2008, but did not enter it until September 22, 2008. On September 17, 2008, the trial court directed Grandmother to file a Concise Statement of Errors Complained of on Appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b), and Grandmother timely complied on October 8, 2008. The trial court filed a responsive Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) opinion.*fn1

¶ 7 Initially, we note that the standard of review which this Court employs in cases of dependency is as follows:

We must accept the facts as found by the trial court unless they are not supported by the record. Although bound by the facts, we are not bound by the trial court's inferences, deductions, and conclusions therefrom; we must exercise our independent judgment in viewing the court's determination, as opposed to its findings of fact, and must order whatever right and justice dictate. We review for abuse of discretion.

In re F.B., 927 A.2d 268, 272 (Pa. Super. 2007) (quotation omitted).

¶ 8 In her brief on appeal, Grandmother raises the following five issues:

1. Did the court below err in ruling that grandmother, D.B., ...


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