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In re M.I.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

June 28, 2013



Appeal from the Order of October 18, 2011 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Family Court at No(s): CP-DP-0012066-2007, March Term, 2009, Nos. 90022, 90023.




D.I. (Mother) appeals from the trial court's order involuntarily terminating her parental rights to her minor children, M.I. and J.F. After careful review, we affirm.

In a prior panel decision, our Court stated the underlying facts of this case as follows:

M.I. (DOB [June 2005]) and J.F. (DOB [January 2007]) were placed in the custody of the City of Philadelphia's Department of Human Services (DHS) after J.F. tested positive for cocaine at birth. Both children were adjudicated dependent on April 12, 2007 and placed in foster care. In February 2009, the court held a hearing on DHS's request to change Mother and Father's visits to supervised visitation based upon a psychologist's testimony that M.I. was exhibiting extreme anxiety from his inability to form an attachment to a parental figure.
In March 2009, DHS filed a petition to change the goal to adoption/terminate; after several hearings, the trial judge, the Honorable Daniel J. Anders, terminated Mother's rights, pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 2511(a)(2), (5), and (8), [1] to children in November 2009. At the termination hearings, it was established that Mother had complied with all DHS family service plan (FSP) objectives (visits, housing, medication management, and mental health therapy) and had been "very consistent" with her visitation, only having missed a total of two visits in April of 2009. However, Dr. Patrick McHugh, a psychologist testifying for DHS, opined that Mother has a dependent personality disorder that cannot be reasonably treated and which negatively impacts her ability to parent M.I. and J.F. Doctor McHugh testified that in the one-hour time period he observed parents and children (and also in the presence of the children's foster mother) on December 19, 2008, Mother played and interacted with the children. He also testified, however, that there was not an excessive amount of affection or physical hugging between Mother and children during the interaction. Finally, he noted that when the visit concluded, the children did not have trouble saying goodbye or separating from parents. From this limited observation, he opined that M.I. and J.F. would not suffer any negative effect if Mother's rights were terminated. Ultimately, the trial judge found that DHS proved by clear and convincing evidence that Mother's parental rights should be terminated under sections 2511(a)(2), (5), and (8) on the basis that:
Parents have through their incapacity or refusal to parent left both children to be without parental care [and] control. That those conditions that brought this case initially into care still exist, namely, parents' unaddressed mental health issues. That those conditions have not, cannot, and will not be remedied by the parents through their demonstrated refusal to obtain mental health evaluations. They have delayed for nearly two years in obtaining those mental health evaluations and have subsequently, once having those mental health evaluations in place, have then drug [sic] their feet in even enrolling in services.

N.T. Termination Hearing, 11/5/2009, at 18-20 (emphasis added). With regard to finding that DHS proved termination was warranted under section 2511(b), the court stated:

I am giving primary consideration to the developmental, physical and emotional needs and welfare of the children. Although, in my view visitation was consistent, it is most confounding to me that with the amount of visitation that occurred, the amount of unsupervised visitation that occurred through December of 2008, which was almost continuously for two full years, that despite all that visitation, that there was under Doctor McHugh's finding, no bond between these parents and their children.
I attribute that to the personality disorders both parents suffer from. So their inability to address that leads me to believe that, A, there is more than sufficient clear and convincing evidence under 2511A, to terminate, but then also explains why there is no bond between the parents and their children[.] I believe it's in the children's best
interests to given them the permanency they deserve after the parents have failed to take advantage of the extensive ...

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