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In the Interest of: S.S.

April 26, 2013


Appeal from the Order Entered September 6, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Mifflin County Orphans' Court at No(s): 6 OF 2012 Appeal from the Order Entered September 6, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Mifflin County Orphans' Court at No(s): 7 OF 2012 Appeal from the Order Entered September 6, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Mifflin County Orphans' Court at No(s): 8 OF 2012

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





T.C. ("Mother") appeals from the orders dated and entered on September 6, 2012, granting the Mifflin County Children and Youth Social Services' ("CYS's" or "Agency's") petition to involuntarily terminate her parental rights to her two female children, S.S., born in May of 1998, K.K., born in September of 1999, and her male child, A.W., Jr., born in June of 2003, (collectively, the "Children"), pursuant to section 2511(a)(2), (5), (8), and (b) of the Adoption Act, 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(2), (5), (8), and (b).*fn1 We affirm.

On August 23, 2010, the Children were placed in the care of CYS. On September 9, 2010, CYS found that Mother was indicated as a perpetrator of imminent risk of sexual abuse on all of the Children based on her pattern of engaging in romantic relationships with abusive men. N.T., 8/21/12, at 10- 19.*fn2 The trial court adjudicated the Children dependent on September 15, 2010, and the trial court granted CYS legal and physical custody at that time. Id. On March 28, 2012, CYS filed petitions seeking the termination of Mother's parental rights to the Children. The trial court held a hearing on the petition on August 21, 2012. At the hearing, CYS presented the testimony of Mackenzie Seiler, the CYS Director; David Ray, a psychologist, to whom CYS referred the family, and who testified as an expert; and Nicole Patkalitsky, the caseworker with CYS assigned to the case. Mother testified on her own behalf.

The trial court made its findings of fact regarding the procedural history of the case, and CYS's contact with the family that led to the placement of the Children in foster care, based on the testimony of CYS's director, Mackenzie Seiler.

In order to understand the facts of this case, a history of Mother's relationships since the time of the birth of S.S. is required. Mother married J.S. on June 16, 1998. She separated from J.S. in January of 1999, and she began living with C.K. Mother and J.S. were divorced on July 21, 2000. Eight days later, Mother married C.K. Mother and C.K. separated, and in late 2001, Mother was again living with J.S. At some point in 2002, Mother began living with A.W., Sr. Mother and C.K. were divorced in February of 2004. Mother and A.W., Sr. separated some time in 2007 before August. Mother married M.C. on August 8, 2007. They lived together until October of 2009. A Protection from Abuse Order was entered against M.C. on October 14, 2009 with Mother and the three children listed as the protected persons. At the end of October of 2009, Mother was again living with J.S. Mother testified that they were living together as friends and were not romantically involved in 2009. As of January of 2010, Mother was no longer living with J.S., but began living with A.W., Sr. again in February of 2010. They lived together until August 24, 2010, when A.W., Sr. moved out of Mother's home. At the time of the hearing, Mother was in a relationship with M.S.[,] with whom she currently resides in Muncy, Pennsylvania, though she is still married to M.C. As a result of Mother's relationships in the past, she and the children moved frequently. They moved between Pennsylvania and North Carolina at one point, and they also moved multiple times within Pennsylvania.

. The family's contact with Northumberland County Children and Youth Services occurred in November of 2008. At that time and based on statements made by S.S., a sexual abuse investigation on A.W., Sr. occurred, which resulted in a finding indicating him as a perpetrator of sexual abuse against S.S. and K.K. Mifflin County Children and Youth Services['] involvement with the family began in August of 2009. At that time, the Agency's investigation into the statements made by S.S. that she was sexually abused by M.C.[,] not A.W., Sr., resulted in a finding of M.C. to be a perpetrator of sexual abuse. On August 23, 2010, Mother brought S.S. and K.K. to the Agency's office. On that date, S.S. reverted back to her original statements made in 2008 that it was A.W., Sr. who had abused her and not M.C. At this point in time, A.W., Sr. was living with Mother. Mother signed a Voluntary Placement Agreement that same day for all three children. The Agency's investigation of physical abuse perpetrated by A.W., Sr. against all three children was ultimately unfounded because his physical punishments of the children did not rise to the level required for a finding of physical abuse. . . . The children have been placed in their prospective adoptive home since April 4, 2012.

Trial Court Opinion, 9/6/12, at 1-3 (footnote omitted).

The trial court made the following findings of fact from the testimony of Ms. Patkalitsky regarding the Family Service Plan ("FSP") goals set CYS established for Mother, and Mother's progress during the Children's placement.

Mother's goals were to obtain and maintain a stable living environment, obtain and maintain a stable sour[ce] of income, restart individual counseling with Dr. Benner, continue medication management, attend and complete the Family Resource Program, attend and complete parenting classes and be able to apply the information learned during visits, keep the PFA in place against M.C., and to [sic] cooperate with the Agency. The [trial court] determined that Mother had made minimal progress towards alleviating the circumstances that necessitated the original placement following the January 6, 2011 and June 9, 2011 Permanency Review Hearings. Mother was found to have made moderate progress following the Permanency Review Hearings held on November 3, 2011, and August 21, 2012. Mother was found to have made substantial progress following the April 4, 2012 Permanency review hearing.

Mother now has stable housing with M.S. and receives Social Security Disability benefits. Mother is in counseling with Diakon counseling services in Williamsport and also attends medication management. Mother has also completed parenting classes and programs recommended. Mother did seek to withdraw the PFA in September of 2010, however the [trial court] did not grant Mother's request as the PFA provides protection for the children against M.C.

Ms. Patkalitsky also testified regarding the visits between the children and Mother. All of Mother's visits with the children since their placement have been supervised. The supervised visits moved from the Agency's office to the FICS [Family

Intervention Crisis Services] at the end of 2011. These visits are weekly for one hour, and Mother also has weekly telephone calls with the children monitored by their foster parents. Mother has been consistent with attending the visits. Because of transportation problems Mother missed a few visits, but she called the Agency a head [sic] of time to inform them of the problem. Mother brought her current fiance, M.S., to a few visits. Ms. Patkalitsky testified that Mother introduced the children to M.S. and told them that he was going to be their new "dad" and to call him "Daddy M[ ]." (Tr. Proceedings T.P.R. 125.) Mother testified that she did not instruct the children to refer to [M.S.] in that manner but rather the children started calling him that on their own accord.

Trial Court Opinion, 9/6/12, at 3-4.

The trial court made the following findings of fact from the testimony and evaluations and reports of the psychologist, David Ray.

The Agency referred this case to psychologist David Ray for an evaluation as to Mother's psychological functioning, parental capabilities, and an assessment of the bond between Mother and each child. Mr. Ray testified as to this findings [sic] and recommendations. (See also Exhibit P - 1A: Psychological Evaluation.) The testing and interviews performed by Mr. Ray show Mother is of average to low average intelligence. Mother's results on the personality tests administered by Mr. Ray were extremely skewed as to render the results invalid. Mother's high level on the "L scale" was higher than the elevation expected in this type of case. (Tr. Proceedings T.P.R. 40-43 and 83: 6-11.)

Mother reported a history of Bi-Polar disorder and Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD) to Mr. Ray. Mother also reported to Mr. Ray that she was raped as a child over a number of years by her half-brother. When Mother told her own mother of this abuse, her mother threatened to put her in foster care if she ever reported her half-brother. (Tr. Proceedings T.P.R. 35: 4-12.)

Mr. Ray's findings indicate that Mother suffers from a Personality Disorder, NOS [("Not Otherwise Specified"),] with narcissistic, histrionic, and borderline traits. Mr. Ray explained in his testimony that Mother has a distinct lack of empathy[,] characteristic of a person with narcissistic traits. Mr. Ray explained that Mother's lack of empathy is a cause of the children's trauma, as she re-exposed her children to abusive men. It is the re-exposure that caused part of psychological trauma to the children. (Tr. Proceedings T.P.R. 62-63.) Also, Mother tends to be overly dramatic as characteristic of a histrionic. Mother has a high level of instability in her life and has a clear fear of abandonment. These two facts are evidence of her borderline personality traits. (Tr. Proceedings T.P.R. 63- 64.) Mr. Ray also found Mother to have Dependent Personality Disorder. Mr. Ray also explained that as a person with a Dependent Personality Disorder, Mother is unable to function independently and requires others to make decisions for her, such as where she should live. (Tr. Proceedings T.P.R. 61-64.)

In addition to Mr. Ray's psychological assessment of Mother, he also assessed the bond each child has with Mother. Each child has his or her own therapist. Mr. Ray interviewed each. Mr. Ray testified that none of the three children have a healthy attachment to Mother. S.S. was found to have an insecure ambivalent attachment with Mother. During Mr. Ray's interview with S.S., the child indicated to Mr. Ray that she was told to lie to the Agency by Mother. S.S. explained to Mr. Ray that Mother instructed her to tell the Agency that A.W. abused her and that M.C. was not the one who had sexually abused her in the past. Mother has consistently denied ever telling S.S. to lie to the Agency. In response to questions from Mr. Ray, S.S. explained that she does not feel safe around Mother. Mr. Ray testified that K.K. has a disorganized attachment to Mother. Mr. Ray noted that K.K. shows signs of significant neglect. Finally, Mr. Ray explained that A.W., Jr. has an avoidant attachment to Mother. According to Mr. Ray's testimony, A.W., Jr.[,] views Mother as unavailable and never felt any closeness with her. In this case, Mr. Ray explained that Mother should not have unsupervised contact with the children. Mr. Ray believes that continuing contact with Mother would be detrimental to the children. Both the children and Mother need years of intensive therapy. Mr. Ray was able to observe the children with their current foster parents/prospective adoptive parents. Mr. Ray found the children to be happy and to have healthy, secure attachments to their foster parents. Mr. Ray noted specifically that A.W., Jr.[,] and his foster father have a particularly close bond. Therefore, Mr. Ray's ultimate conclusion of his bonding assessment is that the benefits of permanency outweigh any detriment of severing their bonds with Mother. (Tr. Proceedings T.P.R. 69-71.)

Trial Court Opinion, 9/6/12, at 4-6.

The trial court made the following findings of fact based on Mother's testimony, and Mr. ...

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