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[U] In re J.F.M.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

May 29, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF: J.F.M., A MINOR

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order, August 30, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County Orphans' Court Division at No. 108 Adopt 2011

BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., WECHT AND COLVILLE, [*] JJ.

MEMORANDUM

FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.

Appellant, V.M. ("Mother") appeals from the trial court's August 30, 2012 order that granted the petition to terminate her parental rights to J.F.M. ("Child") filed by the Dauphin County Social Services for Children and Youth ("the Agency") and changed Child's permanency goal to adoption.[1] We affirm.

The Agency began working with Mother in 2006 due to concerns related to her mental health and significant lack of parenting skills. Mother's parental rights to her first child, H.W., were involuntarily terminated on October 24, 2006. On September 11, 2009, Mother voluntarily relinquished her parental rights to her second child, L.M. J.F.M., who is the subject of the instant matter, was born in November of 2009. Once the Agency became aware of Child's birth, and as a result of its concerns over Mother's mental health and ability to provide proper care for Child, the Agency convened a shelter hearing on November 16, 2009. On November 25, 2009, an adjudication and disposition hearing was held wherein the Agency requested and was granted aggravated circumstances such that they were not required to pursue reasonable efforts towards reunification.

At the adjudication and disposition hearing, the trial court established the following family service plan ("FSP") objectives for Mother for the purposes of facilitating reunification:

1. Follow through with mental health treatment and medication management;
2. Demonstrate appropriate parenting skills and interaction with J.F.M.;
3. Attend all court hearings, Agency meetings and treatment plan meetings;
4. Notify the Agency within 24 hours of a new residence;
5. Maintain appropriate, safe and stable housing;
6. Maintain visitation with [Child];
7. Stay in contact with the Agency;
8. Sign all release of information forms requested by the Agency;
9. Reimburse the County for support of any children in placement.[Footnote 2]
[Footnote 2] Mother receives SSI and therefore is not required to comply with this service objective.

Notes of testimony, 2/6/12 at 11.

The Agency acknowledged that Mother complied with nearly all of the FSP objectives except for the second objective, demonstrating appropriate parenting skills. On October 14, 2011, the Agency filed a petition for goal change to adoption and involuntary termination of parental rights pursuant to Sections 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), (8), and (b) of the Adoption Act ("the Act"), 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 25111(a)(1), (2), (5), (8), and (b). The trial court held an evidentiary hearing on the Agency's petition on February 6, 2012 and July 12, 2012. At the hearing, the Agency presented the testimony of Dr. Howard Rosen, a licensed psychologist; Dr. Kelly Kline, a pediatrician who provided well-child care to Child since birth; Molly Sullivan, Agency caseworker; Candra Chang, a family therapist with Pressley Ridge who provided Mother with reunification services; and Peggy Smith, the foster mother. Testifying for Mother was Lauren Eby, an intensive case manager with Keystone Services Systems, a mental health services provider. The guardian ad litem, Nancy Prescott, Esq., also testified.

On August 30, 2012, the trial court entered an order terminating Mother's parental rights and changing the permanency goal to adoption. On October 1, 2012, Mother filed a notice of appeal from the August 30th order along with a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i) and (b).[2] The trial court filed its Rule 1925(a) opinion on December 4, 2012.

On appeal, Mother raises two issues:

A. DID THE TRIAL COURT ERR WHEN IT ORDERED THE TERMINATION OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS OF [MOTHER] IN [CHILD] BECAUSE SUCH TERMINATION WAS AN EXTREME REMEDY AND AGAINST THE GREATER WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE TENDING TO SHOW THAT [MOTHER] WAS MAKING SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS TOWARDS REUNIFICATION WITH [CHILD]?
B. DID THE TRIAL COURT ERR WHEN IT ORDERED THE TERMINATION OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS OF [MOTHER] IN [CHILD] BECAUSE THE EVIDENCE ADDUCED AT TRIAL WAS LEGALLY INSUFFICIENT AS A MATTER OF LAW TO SUPPORT THE COURT'S FINDING THAT TERMINATION WAS WARRANTED?

Mother's brief at 4.

Both of Mother's claims are premised upon her contention that she was substantially compliant with all her FSP objectives except for one. Mother maintains that the termination of her parental rights was an extreme remedy and ran contrary to the weight and sufficiency of the evidence that showed she was ...


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