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In re T.C.

November 18, 2009

IN RE: T.C., S.C., AND H.C., MINOR CHILDREN
APPEAL OF: R.C., NATURAL FATHER, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order Dated October 14, 2008, in the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County, Orphans' Court Division, No. 6080 ADOPTION.

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

BEFORE: GANTMAN, FREEDBERG, JJ. and McEWEN, P.J.E.

OPINION

¶ 1 R.C. ("Father") appeals from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County involuntarily terminating his parental rights to T.C., S.C., and H.C., pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act ("ICWA"), 25 U.S.C. § 1912.*fn1 We affirm.

¶ 2 The trial court set forth the facts and procedural history as follows, in relevant part:

T.C.[, a male,] was born on February 6, 1999, S.C.[, a female,] on December 21, 2000, and H.C.[, a male,] on February 16, 2004. All three children are of the Native American race as [Father] is a member of a federally recognized tribe known as the Lac-Courte-Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. [Father] was not married at the time of each of the children's birth.

On February 13, 2006, a dependency hearing was held. . . .*fn2 At that time, the children were declared dependent with placement in their parents' home. A review hearing was held on August 28, 2006[,] before the Honorable Richard A. Gray, who reaffirmed dependency and continued placement in [Father's] home. On November 8, 2006, the police were called to the home and reported that [Father] and his paramour . . . were heavily intoxicated. The police were called again on November 16, 2006; the police report indicated [Father] was heavily intoxicated and was charged with simple assault, making terroristic threats, and harassment. On December 11, 2006[,] and December 20, 2006, a review hearing was held before the Honorable Kenneth D. Brown, who reaffirmed dependency and ordered the children be placed in an approved foster home. On December 20, 2006, [Lycoming County Children and Youth Services] placed the children with [Foster Parents].

On May 14, 2007, a review hearing was held before th[e] [c]court, which reaffirmed dependency and ordered all the children to remain in the resource home together. A review hearing was held before the Honorable Dudley N. Anderson on November 1, 2007, who found the children should continue in placement in the resource home and [Father] was directed to attend drug and alcohol counseling. On February 8, 2008, the police were called to [Father's] home because Mother had slashed [Father's] face. When Corporal Ottaviano of the South Williamsport Police Department arrived, he found [Father] to be highly intoxicated and refusing treatment. A review hearing was held on March 11, 2008 before the Honorable William S. Keiser, in which he revoked the order for unsupervised visitation in light of the February [8], 2008 incident.

On April 24, 2008, [Lycoming County Children and Youth Services] filed the instant [p]etition for [i]nvoluntary [t]ermination of [p]arental [r]ights. . . . Trial Court Opinion, 10/14/2008, at 1-2 (original footnotes omitted). Following a hearing on the petition on September 22, 2008, September 23, 2008, and September 25, 2008, the trial court involuntarily terminated Father's parental rights.*fn3 This timely appeal followed. Father was ordered to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). Father filed his statement, and the trial court then issued its Opinion.

¶ 3 Father raises the following issues on appeal, both of which relate to CYS's burden of proof under the ICWA:

1. Whether the lower court erred in terminating [Father's] parental rights where the expert testimony introduced by the Lycoming County Children and Youth Services did not conclusively satisfy the standard set forth in the Indian Child Welfare Act?

2. Whether the lower court erred in terminating [Father's] parental rights where the Lycoming County Children and Youth Services did not meet its burden under [the] Indian Child Welfare Act of proving beyond reasonable doubt termination was justified?

Father's brief at 6.

¶ 4 The scope and standard of review in this case are as follows:

In an appeal from an order terminating parental rights, our scope of review is comprehensive: we consider all the evidence presented as well as the trial court's factual findings and legal conclusions. However, our standard of review is narrow: we will reverse the trial court's order only if we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion, made an error of law, or lacked competent evidence to ...


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