IN THE INTEREST OF: A.B.A.S., A MINOR APPEAL OF: R.P., MOTHER
Appeal from the Order Entered February 11, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Family Court at Nos.: CP-51-AP-0000249-2012, CP-51-DP-0000168-2010, CP-51-AP-0000250-2012, CP-51-DP-0000169-2010: CP-51-AR-0000251-2012, CP-51-DP-0000170-2010.
BEFORE: BENDER, J., BOWES, J. AND STRASSBURGER [*], J.
R.P. ("Mother") appeals from the decrees entered on February 11, 2013, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, terminating her parental rights to her daughter, A.B.A.S. (also known as A.A.R.S.), born in January of 2007, her son, A.I.A.R.S., born in November of 2007, and her daughter, A.B.A.R.S., born in November of 2008 ("the children"), pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), (8), and (b). We affirm.
The trial court provided the following history of this case:
This case initially became known to the Department of Human Services ("DHS") in June 2010 when Mother took her three children, A.B.A.S (age three at the time), A.I.A.R.S. (age three at the time), and A.B.A.R.S. (age one at the time), to DHS and requested services from DHS, particularly housing services. N.T., 2/11/13 at 8; Statement of Facts in Dependency Petition, at ¶ b, attached as Court Exhibit "A." Mother and the children had been living in New York with the children's Father before coming to Philadelphia and had left New York because Mother was a victim of domestic violence by Father. Id. On July 9, 2010, an Order of Protective Custody ("OPC") was obtained when Mother went to DHS requesting that the children be placed. See Order of Protective Custody dated July 9, 2010, attached as Court Exhibit "B." Mother signed a Voluntary Placement Agreement to place the children into DHS's care. N.T., 2/11/13 at 8. The children were placed in a foster home through Children's Services, Inc., where they currently remain. Id. at 8, 44.
On May 24, 2012, DHS filed the instant Petitions for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights. A hearing on the Petitions for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights was held on February 11, 2013. Father was present at the hearing and was represented by counsel. Mother was incarcerated at the time of the termination hearing, but she participated in the hearing by phone and was represented by counsel.
At the hearing, the Court heard testimony from various witnesses, including DHS social worker April Coker-Elliot, agency social worker Jessica Faulk, Mother, and Father. DHS social worker April Coker-Elliot testified that Mother's Family Service Plan ("FSP") objectives in the case were to engage in domestic violence counseling, engage in mental health treatment, obtain her GED, engage in parenting classes, and attend supervised visitation with her children. N.T., 2/11/13 at 9-10. Ms. Coker-Elliot testified that Mother did not complete any of the FSP objectives outlined by DHS. Id. at 10, 28, 30. Specifically, Ms. Coker-Elliot testified that Mother never completed domestic violence counseling or parenting classes, did not attend mental health treatment, and did not obtain her GED. Id. Ms. Coker-Elliot also testified that Mother never sustained adequate housing during the lifetime of the case and refused to go into a homeless shelter. Id. at 17, 29, 30. Mother also had not made any outreach to DHS since her incarceration. Id. at 31.
Ms. Coker-Elliot further testified that Mother was not consistent with visiting the children. Id. at 16. Mother had unsupervised visits with the children at one point but the visits were changed to supervised because of Mother's "numerous inappropriate behaviors during the visitations." Id. Ms. Coker-Elliot testified that Mother was not consistent with visiting the children after the visits were changed to supervised and Mother's visits were eventually suspended by the Court on June 25, 2012. Id. at 16, 29; Court Order dated June 25, 2012, attached as Court Exhibit "C." Ms. Coker-Elliot stated that when she observed the visits, some of Mother's interactions with the children were inappropriate, such as calling the children names and making false promises that the children were going to live with her. Id. at 52-53. Ms. Coker-Elliot testified that there was not an appropriate parent-child bond between Mother and the children and that Mother "didn't have a real parental role with them." Id. at 52. She stated that Mother spoke to the children on their level at times. Id. Mother was also at times more preoccupied with her cell phone during the visits than with the children. Id. At 54.
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[Ms. Coker-Elliot] testified that Father was the perpetrator of domestic violence upon Mother and that the children were receiving trauma-focused therapy for witnessing the domestic violence by their Father. Id. at 32.
DHS next presented the testimony of Jessica Faulk, agency worker from Children's Services. Ms. Faulk testified that the children have been in their current foster home for nearly three years. Id. at 44. She stated that the children have a very close and loving relationship with their foster mother and look to their foster mother to take care of their needs. Id. at 44-46. Ms. Faulk testified that the foster home is a safe, stable, and loving home and is the only home that the children have known for the last couple of years. Id. at 46. She said that it would not be detrimental to the children if Mother's parental rights were terminated and that the children would not suffer any irreparable harm. Id. at 46-47. Ms. Faulk testified:
[I]n the four months that I have been with the kids, they have never once mentioned their Mom, to me. I don't think that they really have any connection to her anymore. They have one Mom, and that is their foster Mom.
Id. at 46.
Ms. Faulk similarly testified that it would not be detrimental to the children if Father's parental rights were terminated and that the children would not suffer any irreparable harm. Id. at 46-47. Ms. Faulk stated the children never once mentioned their Father to her. Id. at 46.
Mother testified at the termination hearing. She stated that she has been incarcerated since August 2012 and is serving an eighteen (18) month sentence for theft. Id. at 77. Mother stated that she left New York and came to Philadelphia because of a domestic violence situation. Id. at 77. She testified that she went to a homeless shelter but they didn't have any beds so she took her children to DHS until she could get into a shelter. Id. at 77-78. Mother stated that she then went back to New York until June 2011 when she returned to Philadelphia. Id. at 79-80. Mother admitted that she never completed parenting classes or mental health treatment. Id. at 82, 89. She also stated that she never attempted to contact DHS since her incarceration in August 2012. Id. At 85.
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At the conclusion of testimony, this [c]ourt determined the testimony of Ms. Coker-Elliot and Ms. Faulk to be credible. Id. at 109. The [c]ourt found Father's testimony to be credible in part and incredible in part. Id. Specifically, the [c]ourt found credible only Father's testimony regarding the validity of the Protection Order and the fact that he was found guilty of domestic abuse. Id. The [c]ourt found that the rest of ...