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In re B.R.B.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

August 13, 2013



Appeal from the Decree entered December 6, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County, Orphans' Court, at No(s): 82780




W.P.B. ("Mother") appeals from the decrees entered in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas, terminating her parental rights to her daughters, B.R.B., born in June of 2000, and M.W.B., born in November of 2007 ("Children"), pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), and (8) and (b).[1] Mother's counsel, John J. Grenko, Esq., has filed a petition to withdraw from representation pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967). [2] We grant counsel's petition to withdraw and affirm the termination decrees.

The trial court provided the following factual history of this case. CYS received a number of reports pertaining to this family[, ]" specifically "concerns regarding Mother's mental health, her abuse of drugs, and her violence, especially toward Father." Trial Ct. Op., 1/14/13, at 3. "During the pre-placement services period of March 10, 2011 to August 10, 2011, " CYS continued to receive reports that "Mother was abusing drugs." Id. She "did not complete most of her goals, " take her medication, attend counseling,

communicate positively around the children [nor] accept the damage domestic violence had done to the children. Much of this domestic violence occurred by her hand and, in fact, a number of protection from abuse petitions were filed against her by Father. . . . Mother also suffered penalties for indirect criminal contempt for violating the protection from abuse orders[.]

Id. at 3-4.

On August 12, 2011, Berks County Children & Youth Services ("CYS") filed juvenile dependency petitions "which led to the children's placement." Trial Ct. Op., 1/14/13, at 4. We note that at that time, B.R.B. was eleven years old and M.W.B. was three.

The August 17, 2011 dependency Order required the parents to comply with a number of services, specifically Mother was ordered to participate in a mental health evaluation and abide by any recommendations, domestic violence evaluation and comply with recommendations, drug and alcohol evaluation and comply with recommendations, random urinalysis, casework services, and dual diagnosis treatment. Mother's visitation with the children was limited to that which was therapeutically recommended. At the first permanency review hearing on January 24, 2012 it was determined that Mother may continue to provide correspondence to the children; however, the correspondence was subject to a number of conditions that limited the content of the correspondence. It was also determined that the correspondence was not to be provided to B.R.B unless approved by her therapist.
Following the adjudication of the children as dependent, through the date of the hearing, [December 6, 2012, ] Mother resided in at least twelve different residences. She was offered monthly casework with CYS and attended eight of ten scheduled sessions. During these sessions, she would forget or deny things that she told the caseworker. She was also authorized to do weekly casework with Signature Family Services after her release from Berks County Prison. The caseworker was able to meet with Mother on three occasions in April 2012. Mother canceled one appointment in May 2012. During the second review period, Mother made no contact with the caseworker and the caseworker's attempts at unannounced visits were unsuccessful.
Mother participated in a drug and alcohol evaluation at TASC[3] on August 8, 2011. Although it was recommended that she would benefit from switching her mental health counseling to dual diagnosis counseling, it does not appear that Mother successfully engaged such services. Between March 17, 2011 and August 22, 2012, Mother was scheduled for twenty-seven urine screens with CYS. Three of those screens were positive for cocaine and she failed to attend seventeen screens.
In July 2011, Mother was diagnosed by a Service Access and Management (SAM) psychiatrist as being bipolar with polysubstance dependency. It seems that although she participated in medication review with SAM, she had problems controlling her medication supply. In June 2012, she was discharged from her Women's Dual Group at Berks Counseling Center for failure to attend. Mother also participated in a separate psychiatric evaluation. In May 2012, the psychiatrist concluded that Mother was not in contact with reality. He found that she has been barely out of prison, and most of her sobriety resulted from her incarceration. Because of the inconsistencies in her life and her lack of credibility, the psychiatrist was not able to make a clear diagnosis, believing her to have "something of a mood disorder" and, even then, he wondered how much of this was substance induced or related.
Mother participated in a domestic violence evaluation. It was concluded that there was a high level of violence occurring in the home around the children. She clearly had victimization issues, poor risk management skills, and difficulty recognizing high-risk situations. The evaluator found her to be unable to provide a safe environment for the children and recommended that she participate in domestic violence treatment, of which there appears to be no record.
Mother was scheduled for a bonding evaluation in September 2012. Mother did not attend the evaluation. As a result of her failure to attend, the evaluator was extremely restricted in the amount of information available to him, but with the limited information he did have[, ] he found the bond between Mother and B.R.B. to be "surprisingly weak for a child who has lived 11 or 12 years with her mother. It is likely that, due to her mother's addiction, she was not very 'present.'" The evaluator also indicated that he had no good information on a possible bond between Mother and M.W.B.
Mother did not participate in any visitation with the children because no visitation was recommended by the therapist. Mother did provide correspondence to the children on numerous occasions; however, only two items were deemed appropriate by the therapist. All of the other correspondence was deemed inappropriate due to Mother's blaming B.R.B. for the situation and making unrealistic promises and requests. Mother was also ordered to attend the Children in the Middle Program but did not.

Id. at 4-6.

On September 17, 2012, CYS filed petitions for the involuntary termination of Mother's parental rights to Children. The petitions alleged unresolved mental health concerns, unresolved domestic violence issues, unresolved drug and alcohol issues, inability to appropriately parent, unstable housing, and unstable income. CYS filed petitions to terminate Father's parental rights as well.

On December 6, 2012, the trial court held a hearing on both termination petitions. Mother did not attend. Her counsel attended and participated in the examination and cross-examination of witnesses, and presented a full case to the trial court. We note that much of the witnesses' testimony focused on Father, who had supervised visitation with Children. That same day, the court entered the underlying order terminating Mother's parental rights to Children, pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511. On January 4, 2013, Mother simultaneously filed timely notices of appeal and Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i) concise statements of errors complained of on appeal.

We first consider Mother's counsel's Anders petition to withdraw from representation. Anders principles apply to appeals involving termination of parental rights. In re S.M.B., 856 A.2d 1235, 1237 (Pa. Super. 2004). Pursuant to Commonwealth v. Santiago, 978 A.2d 349 (Pa. 2009),

the Anders brief that accompanies court-appointed counsel's petition to withdraw . . . must: (1) provide a summary of the procedural history and facts, with citations to the record; (2) refer to anything in the record that counsel believes arguably supports the appeal; (3) set forth counsel's conclusion that the appeal is frivolous; and (4) state counsel's reasons for concluding that the appeal is frivolous. Counsel should articulate the relevant facts of ...

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