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In the Interest of: T.M.T.

April 8, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF: T.M.T., JR., A :
MINOR :
APPEAL OF: T.T., FATHER, : APPELLANT
IN THE INTEREST OF: N.C.T., A MINOR APPEAL OF: T.T., FATHER, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order Entered July 20, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Juvenile Division at No. CP-51-AP-0000145-2012 Appeal from the Order Entered July 20, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Juvenile Division at No. CP-51-AP-0000146-2012

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ford Elliott, P.J.E.

J. S08014/13

IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., LAZARUS AND MUSMANNO, JJ.

OPINION BY FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.:

T.T. ("Father") appeals from the orders entered by the trial court that changed the goals for his dependent children, T.M.T. (born in August 2007) and N.C.T. (born in June 2009) ("the Children") to adoption and terminated his parental rights.*fn1 We affirm.

The family became known to the Philadelphia Department of Human Serivces ("DHS") on July 29, 2009, when DHS received a general protective services report alleging medical neglect. More specifically, the report alleged that T.M.T. suffered from congenital glaucoma and he lacked appropriate medical treatment. The report alleged that since December 2007, T.M.T. had not been examined by an ophthalmologist and that without proper treatment and follow-up, he could lose his eye sight or his eyes. Additionally, the report alleged that on July 27, 2009, T.M.T.'s mother, J.J., contacted the Ophthalmology Department of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia ("CHOP") and stated that T.M.T. had a discharge from his eye and related problems. J.J. was advised to take the child to CHOP immediately; however, she stated she could not take him at that time. J.J. failed to take T.M.T. to the hospital or for a follow-up with CHOP.

From July 29, 2009 to August 21, 2009, DHS conducted several investigations, telephone calls and outreach to Father and J.J., their family members and other individuals who knew them. DHS learned that Father and J.J. had another child, N.C.T., who was two months old at that time and who also suffered from eye problems. On August 21, 2009, DHS visited the family home and found it in deplorable condition. On that same day, DHS filed a motion to compel cooperation with DHS' investigation regarding the July 29th general services report, and DHS obtained an order of protective custody for the Children and placed them both in a Children's Services Inc. ("CSI") foster home.

On August 25, 2009, Father rendered a drug and alcohol sample to the Clinical Evaluation Unit ("CEU"). Father's sample tested positive for cannabis. The CEU report noted that the test was flagged "high."

On February 9, 2010, DHS held a family service plan ("FSP") meeting for the family. The FSP goal was reunification. The objectives were to undergo drug and alcohol evaluations and to comply with treatment recommendations; to sign authorizations for releases for treatment records; to locate and occupy suitable housing; to attend ophthalmology appointments for T.N.T.; and to visit with the Children. Father attended the meeting and signed the document.

On February 12, 2010, Father rendered another drug and alcohol test sample to the CEU. Father tested positive for cannabis. Father's substance abuse issues were evaluated by the CEU on that date. Father provided a brief history of his substance abuse, noting that he began using marijuana at age 16. He stated he smokes one to two blunts a day. Although Father stated he last used marijuana in December of 2009, he tested positive on February 12, 2010 at the highest level. The CEU report noted that Father minimized his drug use. The report recommended that Father engage in intensive out-patient treatment, including random drug screens at the Wedge Medical Center.

On March 18, 2010, the CEU issued a report of non-compliance for Father. The report noted that the Wedge therapist assigned to Father stated that Father missed his scheduled appointment on March 2, 2010, and Father did not respond to the outreach letter sent by the CEU. The report recommended Father be re-evaluated by the CEU.

On March 25, 2010, an adjudicatory hearing was held, and the Children were adjudicated dependent due to medical neglect. On that same date, the trial court found the parents were non-compliant with the CEU and referred them again to the CEU and to the Achieving Reunification Center ("ARC") and also to parenting classes. Father was re-evaluated by the CEU on March 29, 2010. After submitting a sample on March 28th, Father tested positive for marijuana. Despite being referred for intensive out-patient treatment at the Wedge Medical Center, Father had no treatment history. Father was once again referred to Wedge. On January 22, 2011, the CEU issued a report of non-compliance for Father.

In July, 2011, a permanency hearing was held. J.J. raised concerns that the Children were not being adequately cared for at their grandmother's home. As a result, the trial court ordered the Children removed from that home. The court also ordered that Father's visitation be increased to unsupervised day visits. On August 11, 2011, DHS held an FSP meeting for the family. The parental objectives remained the same, and the FSP goal remained reunification.

On September 8, 2011, Father had an unsupervised visit with the Children and failed to return the Children to their foster home at the designated time. The Children were returned the following day. While Father claimed a bomb scare prevented him from returning the Children on time, when DHS attempted to verify Father's story, the phone number Father provided was inoperable. This incident resulted in Father's visits changed to supervised visits at the foster care agency.

On December 27, 2011, Father was once again re-evaluated at the CEU. The report produced by the CEU noted that Father tested positive for marijuana on December 19, 2011 and December 27, 2011. Father admitted that he had never engaged in any treatment. On January 11, 2012, DHS held another FSP meeting for the family, and the goal was changed to adoption. The parental objectives remained the same.

On March 20, 2012, DHS filed a petition to terminate Father's parental rights and to change the Children's permanency goal to adoption. On April 4, 2012, Father pled guilty to one count of manufacturing, delivery or possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. The criminal complaint indicated that the substances involved included heroin. Father was sentenced to two years' probation.

At the time of the July 20, 2012 termination of parental rights hearing, Father was incarcerated. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court terminated Father's parental rights. This appeal followed.

Father raises the following questions for our review:

1. Whether the trial court committed reversible error, when it involuntarily terminated father's parental rights where such determination was not supported by clear and convincing evidence under the adoption act, 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(1), (2), (5) and (8)?

2. Whether the trial court committed reversible error when it involuntarily terminated father's parental rights without giving primary consideration to the effect that the termination would have on the developmental, physical and emotional needs of the ...


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