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[U] In re R.A.L.T.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

July 16, 2013

IN RE: R.A.L.T., MINOR APPEAL OF: K.N., MOTHER IN RE: R.A.T., Jr., MINOR APPEAL OF: K.N., MOTHER IN RE: R.A.T., MINOR APPEAL OF: K.N., MOTHER

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order entered January 18, 2013 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Family Court at Nos.: 70 Adopt-2010; CP-51-AP-0000009-2012, 70 Adopt-2010; CP-51-AP-0000011-2012, 70 Adopt-2010; CP-51-AP-0000010-2012

BEFORE: DONOHUE, MUNDY, and OLSON, JJ.

MEMORANDUM

OLSON, J.

K.N. ("Mother") appeals from the orders entered on January 18, 2013, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, terminating her parental rights to her children, R.A.L.T., R.A.T., Jr., and R.A.T., (collectively "the Children"), pursuant to sections 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), (8), and (b) of the Adoption Act. 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), (8), and (b).[1] We affirm.

Mother first became known to the Department of Human Services ("DHS") in April of 2010, due to Mother testing positive for marijuana and benzodiazepines at the time of R.A.L.T.'s birth. N.T. TPR Hearing, 1/18/2013, at 12. At that time, Mother refused Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act services ("CAPTA"), and she expressed an unwillingness to stop using drugs. Id. at 13. On April 29, 2010, DHS obtained an Order of Protective Custody for the Children, and the Children were placed in foster care. Id.

Following placement, Mother was required to complete a Family Service Plan ("FSP"). Mother's objectives for the FSP were: (1) maintaining visitation with the Children, (2) learning expected behavior and setting age-appropriate expectations for the Children, (3) obtaining appropriate housing, (4) complying with all treatment recommendations from the Clinical Evaluation Unit ("CEU"), (5) maintaining a drug-free lifestyle, (6) attending therapy to develop a better relationship with the Children and improving communication, (7) providing documentation of her completion of high school or attending a GED program, (8) successfully maintaining employment, and (9) meeting regularly with the agency social worker and completing her Individual Service Plan ("ISP") objectives. Id. at 14. The trial court adjudicated the Children dependent on May 14, 2010.

On September 18, 2010, DHS referred Mother to the Achieving Reunification Center ("ARC"). Mother completed the parenting and money management courses, but she did not complete the programs involving employment, housing, and anger management. Id. at 19. The CEU recommended that Mother enter an Intensive Outpatient Dual Diagnosis treatment program, and Mother was referred to Wedge Medical Center. Id. at 18. Mother was discharged from the treatment program because she "abandoned the treatment after three sessions." Trial Court Opinion, 2/20/2013, at 8. After being discharged, Mother was referred to an Intensive Outpatient Dual Diagnosis treatment program at Warren E. Smith. Id. On June 20, 2012, she was discharged for noncompliance. N.T. 1/18/2013, at 59-60. Mother's discharge paperwork stated:

PIR [Person in Recovery]'s response to treatment was poor. PIR presented to psychotherapy group and individual session in a sporadic manner. PIR did not respond to outreach attempts that were made in order to get her engaged in treatment. . . . PIR's prognosis as the time of discharge was poor. PIR is being unsuccessfully discharged for failure to comply with the requirements of the program.

Id.

On January 5, 2013, DHS filed petitions to involuntarily terminate Mother's parental rights, and to change the Children's goals to adoption. On January 18, 2013, the trial court held a hearing on DHS's petitions. At the hearing, the trial court terminated Mother's parental rights pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), (8), and (b). N.T. TPR Hearing, 1/18/2013, at 65-67. Mother timely filed notices of appeal and concise statements of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i) and (b). This Court consolidated the cases sua sponte on February 26, 2013.

On appeal, Mother raises three issues:

1. Whether the trial court committed reversible error, when it involuntarily terminated Mother's parental rights where such determination was not supported by clear and convincing evidence under the [A]doption [A]ct, 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), and (8).
2. Whether the trial court committed reversible error when it involuntarily terminated Mother's parental rights without giving primary consideration to the effect that the termination would have on the developmental, physical, emotional needs of the child as required by the [A]doption [A]ct, 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(b)?
3. Whether, the trial court erred because the evidence was overwhelming and undisputed that Mother [] demonstrated a genuine interest and sincere, persistent, and unrelenting effort to maintain a parent-child relationship with [the Children]?

Mother's Brief at 4.

As our Supreme Court has held:

[A]ppellate courts must apply an abuse of discretion standard when considering a trial court's determination of a petition for termination of parental rights. As in dependency cases, our standard of review requires [that we] accept the findings of fact and credibility determinations of the trial court if they are supported by the record. In re: R.J.T., 9 A.3d 1179, 1190 (Pa. 2010). If the factual findings are supported, appellate courts review to determine if the trial court made an error of law or abused its discretion. As has been often stated, an abuse of discretion does not result merely because the reviewing court might have reached a different conclusion. Instead, a decision may be reversed for an abuse of discretion only upon demonstration of manifest unreasonableness, partiality, prejudice, bias, or ill-will.
As [was] discussed in R.J.T., there are clear reasons for applying an abuse of discretion standard of review in these cases. [In R.J.T., w]e observed that, unlike trial courts, appellate courts are not equipped to make the fact-specific determinations on a cold record, where the trial judges are observing the parties during the relevant hearing and often presiding over numerous other hearings regarding the child and parents. R.J.T., 9 A.3d at 1190. Therefore, . . . an appellate court [may not] second guess the trial court and impose its own credibility determinations and judgment; instead we must defer to the trial judges so long as the factual findings are supported by the record and the court's legal conclusions are not the result of an error of law or an abuse of discretion.

In re Adoption of S.P., 47 A.3d 817, 826-27 (Pa. 2012) (some internal citations omitted).

The burden is upon the petitioner to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the asserted grounds for seeking the termination of parental rights are valid. In re R.N.J., 985 A.2d 273, 276 (Pa. Super. 2009). We have explained:

The standard of 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 hesitance, of ...

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