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In re Adoption of A.Z.H.-O.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

September 9, 2013

IN RE: ADOPTION OF A.Z.H.-O. APPEAL OF: A.H., BIOLOGICAL FATHER IN RE: ADOPTION OF A.Z.H.-O. APPEAL OF: P.O., BIOLOGICAL MOTHER

Appeal from the Order entered January 2, 2013, in the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County, Orphans' Court, at No(s): 2011 AD 16

BEFORE: LAZARUS, OLSON, and COLVILLE[*] JJ.

MEMORANDUM

OLSON, J.

In these related appeals, Appellants, A.H. ("Father"), and P.O. ("Mother"), appeal from the order entered on January 2, 2013, in the Blair County Court of Common Pleas Orphans' Court, terminating Father's and Mother's parental rights to their son, A.Z.H.-O. ("Child"). We affirm.

The record reveals the following relevant factual and procedural history. Father and Mother are the natural parents of Child, who was born in April of 2004. Petitioners, S.H. ("Paternal Uncle") and K.H. ("Paternal Aunt") filed Petitions for the Involuntary Termination of Mother's and Father's Parental Rights on June 15, 2011. A hearing was held on the matter on April 13, 2012, April 17, 2012, and July 12, 2012. Trial Court Opinion, 1/2/13, at 1.

Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt are married and have lived in their home since 1997. They have no biological children. However, Child and his younger sister, I.H., born in November of 2008, live with Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt. The children have the same biological parents. I.H. was removed from Mother's care by the Blair County Children, Youth, and Family Services ("BCCYF") and placed with a foster family until Mother could complete her Safety Plan. At the time, Mother was on methadone, and she entered the Blair County Family Drug Court. Mother did not successfully complete her recommended treatment at Drug Court, and did not complete the Safety Plan that BCCYF had set up for her to complete in order to be reunited with I.H. Mother then abandoned all contact with I.H. and refused to contact BCCYF. Id. at 2. BCCYF placed I.H. with Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt, who served as foster parents. On September 2, 2010, Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt adopted I.H. Id. at 2-3.

In September of 2007, Paternal Uncle petitioned the court to intervene in the custody case between Mother and Father concerning Child, the brother of I.H., because Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt had been watching Child and saw track marks in Mother's arm, which were a sign of Mother's drug use. Child was placed with Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt temporarily. After Mother and Father agreed to follow the Safety Plan, Paternal Uncle returned Child to them. Subsequently, Child came to live with Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt in December of 2008, when he was four years old. Prior to Child moving in with Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt in December, 2008, Mother had left Child with her father, R.O., while she attended the Methadone Clinic. On December 18, 2008, R.O. and his wife, S.O., were arrested for selling drugs. They called T.P., an individual with a criminal record, to watch Child until Mother returned from the Methadone Clinic. At the time, Paternal Uncle requested that Child live with him and Paternal Aunt during the week and visit Mother on weekends. Mother agreed but started to miss her weekend visits. Child continued to stay with Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt. Id. at 3.

Although BCCYF was involved with I.H., they were not involved with Child during this period of time. Also, during this period, Father was not involved in Child's life. Pursuant to a custody order, Child has been in the primary custody of Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt since the spring of 2009. Id. at 3-4.

Although Mother alleged that Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt withheld Child from her, she never filed a petition for contempt or custody modification. Mother was notified by MidPenn Legal Services that she could file for custody modification without an attorney, but never did so, although she had achieved a custody order on her own. Id. at 4.

Mother is currently off methadone. The last time Mother had physical contact with Child was in July of 2010, when she came over and went swimming at Paternal Uncle's and Paternal Aunt's home after one of Child's baseball games. She had her new baby with her. Admittedly, Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt refused to bring Child to a birthday party for one of Mother's other children because Child had not seen Mother in a long time. Mother's last non-physical contact with Child was in August or September of 2010 via telephone. Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt have lived at the same address for a long time and have had the same telephone number for fifteen years. Id. at 5.

Father is currently incarcerated at SCI-Retreat, serving a four to eight year sentence that began in August of 2009. Before Father went to prison, he had a problem with marijuana and pain pills. Id.

Father testified that, after Child was born, he saw Child daily. However, after reviewing the competent evidence, the trial court determined that Child lived with Mother and Paternal Grandfather for five years, as his primary caretakers, but had some contact with Father. Father was not present for the entirety of the time. Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) Opinion, 1/23/13 at 4. In addition, during that period of time, Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt reported concerns to BCCYF, and Child was placed with them. Later, BCCYF returned Child to Mother and Father. Trial Court Opinion, 1/2/13, at 5.

In 2008, Father was incarcerated in Bedford County Jail for a parole violation and absconding. When Father was released from jail, Mother refused to allow him to see Child and filed a Protection from Abuse ("PFA") petition against Father, which was granted. Father then filed for custody modification, but no action was taken because of Father's pending criminal charges. He was eventually found guilty and sentenced to four to eight years' imprisonment. Father saw Child only a few times in 2008.

The last time Father had physical contact with Child was when Father was a fugitive in 2008, fleeing from an arrest warrant. He visited with Child at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The visit was set up surreptitiously by Father's sister, N. The last telephone contact Father had with Child was on Christmas Day of 2010. Child received a birthday card from Father after the termination petition was filed. Father did fill out a minor visit approval form in an attempt to have Child visit him in prison. Paternal Uncle refused to take Child to the prison to visit Father because he believed that it would be bad for Child. Paternal Uncle's and Father's father was in jail when they were young, and the two brothers did not like visiting their father in jail. Eventually, Father agreed with Paternal Uncle. Father called Child four times between August of 2009 and June of 2011. Father sent Child approximately two or three cards a year, and sent Christmas presents through a prison program. Trial Court Opinion, 1/2/13, at 5-6. In the six months immediately preceding the filing of the Petition for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights, Father made telephone calls around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) Opinion, 1/23/13, at 5. N.T., 4/13/12, at 69-70.

Father described himself as a "friend" to Child. He asserted that there was a father/child bond between him and Child, but noted that he was sure that it was not as strong as it used to be. Father's home plan upon release from prison was to live at his sister's house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Father noted that the earliest that he could be paroled to a halfway house is January of 2013. Father stated that he thought that the impact of termination of his parental rights on Child would be devastating. However, when Child spoke to the Guardian ad litem ("GAL"), he said he was afraid of Father. The GAL found that Child was bonded to Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt. Id. at 7.

Neither Mother nor Father has provided any financial support for Child. They have not been substantially involved with Child's schooling or medical care, and have not been involved with Child's day-to-day care for years. Id. at 6-7.

Child is aware that Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt are his aunt and uncle. Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt have a great relationship with Child. Paternal Uncle is child's soccer, baseball, and basketball coach. They fish and hike together. Child knows who his biological Father and biological

Mother are. Paternal Uncle is involved in Child's extra-curricular activities and education. Mother indicated that she would like Child to be raised as a Catholic and attend Catholic school, and Paternal Uncle and Aunt have fulfilled her request by placing Child in Saint John's Catholic School in Lakemont, Pennsylvania. Id. at 7-8. Child is doing well in school. He has a good relationship with his sister, I.H. Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt provide for Child and I.H. financially. Id. at 8.

When the GAL spoke with Child, he envisioned Mother and her new child moving into Paternal Uncle's and Paternal Aunt's new home so they could care for them also. GAL concluded that Child's bonds with his parents are not strong, and that Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt provide for all of his needs. GAL opined that termination of Father's and Mother's parental rights is in the best interest of Child. Id. at 8.

On June 15, 2011, Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt filed Petitions for the Involuntarily Termination of Parental Rights. Following a termination hearing on April 13, 2012, April 17, 2012, and July 12, 2012, the trial court granted Paternal Uncle's and Paternal Aunt's petitions, and terminated Father's and Mother's parental rights.

On January 9, 2013, Father timely filed a notice of appeal and a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i) and (b). In addition, on February 1, 2013, Mother timely filed a notice of appeal and a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i) and (b). On February 25, 2013, this

Court ordered sua sponte that the cases at 106 WDA 2013 and 275 WDA 2013 be listed consecutively.

Father raises five issues on appeal:
1. Did the Court err and/or abuse its discretion in finding that prospective adoptive parents established by clear and convincing evidence that it is in the best interests of the minor child for Father's parental rights to be terminated where prospective adoptive parents failed to establish that Father exhibited a settled purpose of relinquishing his parental claim to the minor child or has refused of failed to perform parental duties[?]
2. Did the Court err and/or abuse its discretion in finding that petitioners established by clear and convincing evidence that it is in the best interests of the minor child for Father's rights to be terminated when prospective adoptive parents failed to establish that Father's actions have left the child without essential parental care necessary for his well-being, and that the causes of Father's incapacity cannot be remedied within a time frame that attends to the best interests of the child[?]
3. Did the Court err and/or abuse its discretion when it found that the child's best interests were served by terminating both parents' parental rights where it specifically found the existence of a bond between Father and the child[?]
4. Did the Court err and/or abuse its discretion by finding that the prospective adoptive parents established by clear and convincing evidence that Father exhibited a settled purpose of relinquishing his parental rights when viewing the totality of the circumstances Father used all available resources to preserve his parental relationship and exercised reasonable firmness in declining to yield to obstacles when Father at the time of the hearing presented credible evidence to the court that he exerted all efforts to preserve the relationship while incarcerated[?]
5. Did the Court err and/or abuse its discretion by permitting counsel for the prospective adoptive parents to read contents of emails into the record during cross- examination for which authorship was not established[?] Father's brief at 4-6.

On appeal, Mother raises two issues:

1. Whether the Trial Court erred in finding that there was presented the requested evidence to establish that there was a settled intent on the part of the natural mother to relinquish her parental claim to the child a refusal to perform parental duties between the natural mother and the subject [child] for six continuous months prior to the filing of the petition for involuntary termination (See 23 P.S. 2511(a)(1))?
2. Whether termination of the Appellant's parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of the child? (See 23 P.S. 2511(b))?

Mother's brief at 7.

We review the present appeal in accordance with the following standard:

[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 an appellate court to 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. Id.; [In re:] R.I.S., 36 A.3d [567, 572] (Pa. 2011)]. As has been often stated, an abuse of discretion does not result merely because the reviewing court might have reached a different conclusion. Id.; see also Samuel Bassett v. Kia Motors America, Inc., 34 A.3d 1, 51 (Pa. 2011); Christianson v. Ely, 838 A.2d 630, 634 (Pa. 2003). Instead, a decision may be reversed for an abuse of discretion only upon demonstration of manifest unreasonableness, partiality, prejudice, bias, or ill-will. Id.
As we discussed in R.J.T., there are clear reasons for applying an abuse of discretion standard of review in these cases. We 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, even where the facts could support an opposite result, as is often the case in dependency and termination cases, an appellate court must resist the urge to 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 Atencio, 650 A.2d 1064, 1066 (Pa. 1994).

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

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).

[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."

Id., quoting In re J.L.C., 837 A.2d 1247, 1251 (Pa. Super. 2003).

In this case, the trial court involuntarily terminated Father's and Mother's parental rights pursuant to section 2511(a)(1), (2), and (b). Because termination of a parent's rights need only meet one of the sections set forth in 2511(a) and (b), we focus on section 2511(a)(1) and (b), which provide, as follows:[1]

§ 2511. Grounds for involuntary termination
(a) General rule.--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 or has refused or failed to perform parental duties.
* * *
(b) Other considerations.--The court in terminating the rights of a parent shall give primary consideration to the developmental, physical and emotional needs and welfare of the child. The rights of a parent shall not be terminated solely on the basis of environmental factors such as inadequate housing, furnishings, income, clothing and medical care if found to be beyond the control of the parent. With respect to any petition filed pursuant to subsections (a)(1), (6) or (8), the court shall not consider any efforts by the parent to remedy the conditions described therein which are first initiated subsequent to the giving of notice of the filing of the petition.

23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(1), (b) (emphasis in original).

In In re Z.S.W., 946 A.2d 726 (Pa. Super. 2008), this Court stated:

[t]o satisfy the requirements of section 2511(a)(1), the moving party must produce clear and convincing evidence of conduct, sustained for at least the six months prior to the filing of the termination petition, which reveals a settled intent to relinquish parental claim to a child or a refusal or failure to perform parental duties. In re Adoption of R.J.S., 901 A.3d 502, 510 (Pa. Super. 2006). In addition,
Section 2511 does not require that the parent demonstrate both a settled purpose of relinquishing parental claim to a child and refusal or failure to perform parental duties. Accordingly, parental rights may be terminated pursuant to Section 2511(a)(1) if the parent either demonstrates a settled purpose of relinquishing parental claim to a child or fails to perform parental duties.

In re Adoption of Charles E.D.M., 708 A.2d 88, 91 (Pa. 1998).

Once the evidence establishes a failure to perform parental duties or a settled purpose of relinquishing parental rights, the court must engage in three lines of inquiry: (1) the parent's explanation for his or her conduct; (2) the post-abandonment contact between parent and child; and (3) consideration of the effect of termination of parental rights on the child pursuant to Section 2511(b).

Id. at 92 (citation omitted). In re Z.S.W., 946 A.2d at 730 (parallel citations omitted).

Within this matter, the trial court carefully reviewed the testimony and the evidence presented by the parties and held that Father and Mother had failed to perform their parental duties for well over the six months prior to the filing of the termination petition pursuant to section 2511(a)(1) and (b). In reviewing the record and the evidence presented, the trial court considered the statements from the GAL that Father and Mother had a history of drug abuse and addiction before and continuing after the birth of Child. The GAL also stated that there had been a history of domestic violence between Father and Mother, which resulted in their separation on more than one occasion. The GAL found Child's home life with his parents to have been anything but stable. Trial Court Opinion, 1/2/13, at 11.

With respect to Father, the GAL found Father was in and out of jail in 2008 and 2009. There were warrants for his arrest in the spring of 2009, and Father was on the run attempting to avoid arrest. On August 8, 2009, Father was incarcerated for a period of time from four to eight years, and has been incarcerated ever since. Father has not seen Child since the child went to live with Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt. The GAL found that Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt have provided for Child mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially, providing him with the love, protection, guidance, and support that he has needed since December of 2008. The GAL concluded that Father has not exercised his parental duties to Child in excess of six months. In addition, Father's repeated and continued incapacity, abuse, neglect, or refusal has caused Child to be without essential parental care, control, or subsistence necessary. Following an interview with Child, the GAL noted that Child was afraid of Father. Id. at 12-13. The trial court examined the record to determine whether it supported the GAL's conclusions, and to draw its own conclusions about the case. Additionally, the trial court considered testimony presented on behalf of both parents, including that of Father's sister and Mother's father. The trial court, however, found their testimony to be biased and not credible. Id. at 13.

Considering the trial court's findings, we hold that competent evidence of record supports the trial court order holding that, for a period of at least six months prior to the filing of the petition, Father has engaged in conduct evidencing a settled purpose of relinquishing his parental rights to Child. See 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(1). Father's first issue on appeal lacks merit.

Within his fourth issue on appeal, Father argues that the trial court abused its discretion in holding that Father exhibited a settled purpose to relinquish his parental rights, because, according to Father, he has used all available resources to preserve his parental relationship, including while he has been incarcerated. With regard to a parent's incarceration, in In re Adoption of S.P., our Supreme Court re-iterated the standard of analysis pursuant to section 2511(a)(1) for abandonment and added as follows:

[a]pplying [In re: Adoption of McCray, ] the provision for termination of parental rights based upon abandonment, now codified as § 2511(a)(1), we noted that a parent "has an affirmative duty to love, protect and support his child and to make an effort to maintain communication and association with that child." [460 Pa. 210, 217, 331 A.2d 652, 655]. We observed that the father's incarceration made his performance of this duty "more difficult." Id.
* * *
[A] parent's absence and/or failure to support due to incarceration is not conclusive on the issue of abandonment. Nevertheless, we are not willing to completely toll a parent's responsibilities during his or her incarceration. Rather, we must inquire whether the parent has utilized those resources at his or her command while in prison in continuing a close relationship with the child. Where the parent does not exercise reasonable firmness in declining to yield to obstacles, his other rights may be forfeited.

In re Adoption of S.P., 47 A.3d at 828, quoting In re: Adoption of McCray, 331 A.2d 652, 655 (Pa. 1975) (footnotes and internal quotation marks omitted). Further, the Supreme Court stated, "incarceration neither compels nor precludes termination of parental rights." In re Adoption of S.P., 47 A.3d at 828 (adopting this Court's statement in In re Z.P., 994 A.2d 1108, 1120 (Pa. Super. 2010)).

Within this matter, the record reveals that the trial court took into consideration Father's periodic cards and phone calls to Child, but found that Father's failure to perform his parental duties was not due solely to his incarceration since Father was failing to perform his duties before his incarceration. Trial Court Opinion, 1/2/13, at 15. In addition, there is no clear decision as to when Father will actually be released. Consequently, Father's fourth issue on appeal lacks merit, and we find no abuse of discretion in the trial court's evaluation of Section 2511(a)(1) with respect to Father.[2]

With regard to Mother, competent evidence establishes that she too has had an extensive history of drug abuse and addiction. Mother failed to complete the recommended program in drug court. When Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt took over Child's care and offered Mother weekend visits, after a period of time, she failed to follow through with the visit. Mother has neither seen Child nor cared for him for a long period of time. Indeed, despite having a court order, which granted Mother periods of custody with Child, she only exercised that custody until August of 2009. Further, the trial court found large portions of Mother's testimony not to be credible or to be an excuse as to why she did not perform her parental duties toward Child. The court and the GAL noted that Mother has also had her parental rights terminated as to her daughter, I.H., who has been adopted by Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt. Trial Court Opinion, 1/2/13, at 13 & 16.

Mother now lives with a new husband and a new baby. Although Mother is currently sober, her long-term stability is not established. Evidence shows that Child perceives Mother as someone who needs to be taken care of by Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt, not someone who can take care of him. Id.

Although Father and Mother contend that Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt were trying to "steal" Child from them, the evidence reveals that they stepped in as responsible family members to take care of both Child and his sister, when "neither Mother nor Father was capable of taking care of them." Id. at 13-14. Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt provided Mother and Father access to Child. The record shows that their original intent was to care for Child until Father and Mother could do so. However, the evidence reveals that neither Father nor Mother was ever capable of performing their parental duties. Id. at 14. Rather, Child was forced to rely on Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt for all of his needs. The trial court found that the need of Child to be taken care of overrides the emotional desire of parents to care for Child at a later date. Id. Indeed, this Court has held that "[p]arental rights are not preserved by waiting for a more suitable or convenient time to perform one's parental responsibilities, while others provide the child with his or her physical and emotional needs." In re: E.M., 908 A.2d 297, 304 (Pa. Super. 2006). As such, competent evidence of record supports the trial court order holding that, for a period of at least six months prior to the filing of the petition, Mother has engaged in conduct evidencing a settled purpose of relinquishing her parental rights to Child. See 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(1). Mother's first issue on appeal lacks merit.

Next, we review and consider the effect that termination of Father's and Mother's parental rights will have on Child.[3] Pursuant to section 2511(b), we must consider whether the termination of parental rights would best serve the developmental, physical, and emotional needs and welfare of the child. See In re C.M.S., 884 A.2d 1284, 1286-1287 (Pa. Super. 2005). "Intangibles such as love, comfort, security, and stability are involved in the inquiry into the needs and welfare of the child." Id. at 1287 (citation omitted). The trial court must also discern the nature and status of the parent-child bond in the case, with utmost attention to the effect of permanently severing that bond on the child. See id.

When evaluating a parental bond,

the court is not required to use expert testimony. Social workers and caseworkers can offer evaluations as well. Additionally, Section 2511(b) does not require a formal bonding evaluation. In re Z.P., 994 A.2d at 1121 (internal citations omitted). Although it is often wise to have a bonding evaluation and make it part of the certified record, "[t]here are some instances . . . where direct observation of the interaction between the parent and the child is not necessary and may even be detrimental to the child."

In re K.Z.S., 946 A.2d 753, 762 (Pa. Super. 2008).

A parent's abuse and neglect are likewise a relevant part of this analysis:

concluding a child has a beneficial bond with a parent simply because the child harbors affection for the parent is not only dangerous, it is logically unsound. If a child's feelings were the dispositive factor in the bonding analysis, the analysis would be reduced to an exercise in semantics as it is the rare child who, after being subject to neglect and abuse, is able to sift through the emotional wreckage and completely disavow a parent . . . Nor are we of the opinion that the biological connection between [the parent] and the children is sufficient in of itself, or when considered in connection with a child's feeling toward a parent, to establish a de facto beneficial bond exists. The psychological aspect of parenthood is more important in terms of the development of the child and [his or her] mental and emotional health than the coincidence of biological or natural parenthood.

In re K.K.R.-S., 958 A.2d 529, 535 (Pa. Super. 2008) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Thus, the court may emphasize the safety needs of the child. See In re K.Z.S., 946 A.2d at 763 (affirming involuntary termination of parental rights, despite existence of some bond, where placement with mother would be contrary to child's best interests). "[A] parent's basic constitutional right to the custody and rearing of . . . her child is converted, upon the failure to fulfill . . . her parental duties, to the child's right to have proper parenting and fulfillment of [the child's] potential in a permanent, healthy, safe environment." In re B., N.M., 856 A.2d 847, 856 (Pa. Super. 2004) (internal citations omitted). See In re: T.S.M., A.3d; (Slip Op. Nos. 7-11 WAP 2013, filed July 22, 2013); 2013 Pa. Lexis 1568 (Pa. July 22, 2013).

Based upon evidence within the certified record, the trial court in this matter held that, while Father and Mother have an emotional attachment to Child, it is clear that Child is bonded to Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt, and that Child looks to them for all of his emotional, financial, physical, and mental needs. Trial Court Opinion, 1/2/13, at 12. The GAL concluded that Father's and Mother's bonds with Child are not strong since Child has not seen them or been in their care for a long period of time, and that Child recognizes that Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt stand in the role of his parents. Id. Child has a strong relationship with Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt, and they provide him and his sister with a happy, safe, and loving home. Father himself admitted that his bond with Child was not as strong as it used to be.

Thus, we find no abuse of discretion in the trial court's conclusion that the termination of Father's and Mother's parental rights would best serve Child's needs and welfare because it would provide Child with the permanency and stability that he needs in his life with Paternal Uncle and Paternal Aunt. The trial court's determination regarding section 2511(b) is particularly so because it is unclear when, if ever, Father and/or Mother will be ready to assume their parental responsibilities. Therefore, we find that the evidence supports the trial court's conclusion regarding the termination of Father's and Mother's parental rights to Child pursuant to section 2511(b).

With the above standards of review in mind, we have thoroughly reviewed the record, Father's and Mother's briefs, and the applicable law. We find that the trial court ably and methodically considered the evidence presented at trial, and addressed Father's and Mother's issues. This Court finds that the trial court's determinations are supported by competent evidence. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's order.

Order affirmed.


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