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[U] In re C.J.C.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

August 13, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF: C.J.C. APPEAL OF: B.C., FATHER IN THE INTEREST OF: A.M.F. APPEAL OF: B.C., FATHER IN THE INTEREST OF: B.K.C., JR. APPEAL OF: B.C., FATHER

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Decree March 12, 2013, Court of Common Pleas, Montgomery County, Orphans' Court at Nos. 2012-A0184, 2012-A0185, 2012-A0186

BEFORE: DONOHUE, ALLEN and MUSMANNO, JJ.

MEMORANDUM

DONOHUE, J.

In this appeal, B.C. ("Father") appeals from the decrees entered in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas terminating his parental rights to three children, C.J.C., A.M.F., and B.K.C., Jr. Following our careful review, we affirm.

The three children at issue in this appeal first became involved with Montgomery County Office of Children and Youth ("OCY") on July 17, 2009, when OCY took custody of them, along with four other children, on an emergency basis. The impetus for the removal was OCY's discovery that L.D. ("Mother") left all seven children unattended in a home that was in such deplorable condition that it was subsequently condemned. Father is the father of six of these children, all of whom were immediately placed in foster care.

At the time of the children's removal in 2009, Father was living in DuBois, approximately 265 miles away from the children and Mother. Father continues to reside in DuBois. OCY created FSP goals for Father with regard to all of the children, and he has subsequently regained custody of the three oldest children. On November 14, 2012, OCY filed petitions seeking the involuntary termination of Father's rights to the three youngest children (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the Children" or individually by their initials). A hearing on these petitions was held on January 9, 2013, and on March 12, 2013, the trial court granted OCY's petitions, findings that termination was appropriate pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 2511(a)(1), (2) and (b).

This timely appeal follows, in which Father argues that the trial court's determination was not supported by clear and convincing evidence as required by law. See Appellant's Brief at 4. The standards governing our review of a decree terminating parental rights are well settled:

When reviewing an appeal from a decree terminating parental rights, we are limited to determining whether the decision of the trial court is supported by competent evidence. Absent an abuse of discretion, an error of law, or insufficient evidentiary support for the trial court's decision, the decree must stand. Where a trial court has granted a petition to involuntarily terminate parental rights, this Court must accord the hearing judge's decision the same deference that we would give to a jury verdict. We must employ a broad, comprehensive review of the record in order to determine whether the trial court's decision is supported by competent evidence. The burden is upon the petitioning person or agency to prove by clear and convincing evidence that its asserted grounds for seeking the termination of parental rights are valid. Moreover, … [t]he 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 the truth of the precise facts in issue. The trial court is free to make all credibility determinations, and may believe all, part, or none of the evidence presented. If the findings of the trial court are supported by competent evidence, we will affirm even if the record could also support the opposite result.

In re T.M.T., 64 A.3d 1119, 1124 (Pa. Super. 2013) (citations omitted).

Section 2511 of the Adoption Act governs termination of parental rights. Under Section 2511, the trial court must engage in a bifurcated process. In re C.L.G., 956 A.2d 999, 1004 (Pa. Super. 2008). The initial focus is on the conduct of the parent, and the burden of proof is on the petitioner to establish by clear and convincing evidence the existence of grounds for termination under Section 2511(a). Id. If the trial court finds that termination is warranted under Section 2511(a), it must then turn to Section 2511(b), and determine if termination of the parent's rights is in the child's best interest. Id.

Father first challenges the trial court's finding that termination was appropriate pursuant to Section 2511(a)(1) and (2). "For the purpose of reviewing this issue, we note that this court need only agree with the trial court's decision as to any one subsection in order to affirm the termination of parental rights." In re T.M.T., 64 A.3d at 1125. Accordingly, we focus on Section 2511(a)(1), which provides:

The rights of a parent in regard to a child may be terminated after a petition filed on any of the following grounds:

(1) The parent by conduct continuing for a period of at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition either has evidenced a settled purpose of relinquishing parental claim to a child ...

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