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In Re: N.A.M.

November 14, 2011

IN RE: N.A.M.,
APPEAL OF: R.H., MOTHER, APPELLANT
IN RE: N.J.M.,
APPEAL OF: R.H., MOTHER, APPELLANT IN RE: N.H.,
APPEAL OF: R.H., MOTHER, APPELLANT
IN RE: N.B.,
APPEAL OF: R.H., MOTHER, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Decree of December 15, 2010, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Family Court, at No.: D#6263-07-09, J#377451-02, May Term, No. 90040 Appeal from the Decree of December 15, 2010, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Family Court, at No.: D#6264-07-09, J#377451-03, May Term, 2009 No. 90041 Appeal from the Decree of December 15, 2010, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Family Court, at No.: D#6265-07-09, J#377451-04, May Term, 2009 No. 90042 Appeal from the Decree of December 15, 2010, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Family Court, at No.: D#6266-07-09, J#377451-05, May Term, 2009 No. 90043

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

J-S47001-11

BEFORE: BOWES, SHOGAN, and FREEDBERG, JJ.

OPINION BY BOWES, J.:

R.H. ("Mother") appeals the orphans' court decrees entered on December 15, 2010, wherein the court terminated her parental rights to N.A.M., N.J.M., N.H., and N.B. pursuant to the Adoption Act.*fn1 We affirm.

Philadelphia Department of Human Services, Children and Youth Division ("DHS") became involved with this family during October 2003 because Mother lacked stability and family support to help her care for the three children she had at that time, a son who is not involved in these adoption proceedings and two daughters, N.A.M, born June 12, 2002, and N.J.M., born July 2, 2003. DHS removed the children from Mother's care during February 2004, but after Mother completed the required services, her daughters were returned during spring 2006. Mother gave birth to a third daughter, N.H., on January 1, 2006. DHS intervened again shortly after she had a son, N.B., on June 14, 2007, upon receiving a report that both Mother and N.B. tested positive for illegal substances following his birth. The children remained in her care, but DHS provided services.

Three months later, on September 13, 2007, DHS received a substantiated emergency protective services report that Mother physically and verbally abused the children. The report indicated that Mother was observed striking the children and cursing at them. In fact, Mother not only admitted to inflicting corporal punishment upon N.A.M. as a form of discipline, but she also asked a service provider to remove N.J.M. from the family home because she was afraid that she might injure her.

After the children were removed from Mother's care, the juvenile court ordered supervised visitation and directed Mother to participate in urine screens administered by the court's clinical evaluation unit. Mother tested positive for cannabinoids on September 13 and 17, 2007, and a September 25, 2007 screen revealed both cannabinoids and PCP. On September 27, 2007, the juvenile court adjudicated N.A.M., N.J.M., N.H., and N.B. dependent and DHS placed the children in their respective pre-adoptive foster homes. The three girls reside together, while N.B. lives with a separate pre-adoptive family. DHS designed a Family Service Plan ("FSP") in order to address Mother's drug and alcohol abuse, mental health needs, anger control problem, and poor parenting skills. In addition, the FSP directed Mother to maintain stable housing and regularly attend visitation. Mother's compliance with the FSP goals was moderate; e.g., it took Mother approximately two years to complete a twelve-week parenting course, she finished only the initial stages of her drug and alcohol program and mental health treatment, and she never provided DHS documentation that she completed a six-to-eight-week anger management program.*fn2

On May 29, 2009, DHS filed petitions to change the children's placement goals to adoption and for the involuntary termination of Mother's parental rights. The four petitions for involuntary termination of Mother's parental rights alleged that termination would best serve each child's needs and welfare pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), and (8). During the evidentiary hearing, DHS presented its supervising caseworker, a case manager from a service provider that was commissioned to address Mother's substance abuse and mental health needs, and the children's foster care caseworkers. Mother testified on her own behalf. On December 15, 2010, the trial court entered the underlying orders wherein it granted DHS's petitions to involuntarily terminate Mother's parental rights to N.A.M., N.J.M., N.H., and N.B. pursuant to § 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), and (8).*fn3

Mother filed timely notices of appeal and concise statements of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). On appeal, Mother claims that the orphans' court erred in finding that DHS established the statutory grounds to terminate her parental rights pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a) and (b). The crux of Mother's complaint is that the orphans' court ignored the evidence she presented to demonstrate her love for the children and her compliance with the FSP goals and objectives. Mother also assails the orphans' court's finding that DHS established by clear and convincing evidence that terminating her parental rights would be in the children's best interest when a formal bonding evaluation was not performed.

In In re Adoption of L.J.B., 18 A.3d 1098, 1107 (Pa. 2011), our Supreme Court recently reiterated the pertinent standard of review regarding an order terminating parental rights as follows:

In cases concerning the involuntary termination of parental rights, our review is limited to a determination of whether the decree of the termination court is supported by competent evidence. Adoption of B.D.S., 494 Pa. 171, 431 A.2d 203, 207 (1981). The party petitioning for termination "must prove the statutory criteria for that termination by at least clear and convincing evidence." In re T.R., 502 Pa. 165, 465 A.2d 642, 644 (1983). Clear and convincing evidence is defined as "testimony that is so clear, direct, weighty, and convincing as to enable the trier of fact to come to a clear conviction, without hesitancy, of the truth of the precise facts in issue." Matter of Sylvester, 521 Pa. 300, 555 A.2d 1202, 1203-04 (1989).

As the ultimate trier of fact, the orphans' court is empowered to make all determinations of credibility, resolve conflicts in the evidence, and believe all, part, or none of the evidence presented. In re A.S., 11 A.3d 473, 477 (Pa.Super. 2010). "If competent evidence supports the trial court's findings, we will affirm even if the record could also support the opposite result." Id. Requests to terminate a biological parent's parental rights are governed by 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, which provides in pertinent part as follows:

(a) General rule.--The rights of a parent in regard to a child may be terminated after a petition filed on ...


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