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In re Adoption of M.P.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

September 10, 2013

IN RE: ADOPTION OF M.P., APPEAL OF: J.P., Appellant IN RE: ADOPTION OF M.P., APPEAL OF: M.C., NATURAL MOTHER, Appellant IN RE: ADOPTION OF C.J.P., APPEAL OF: M.C., NATURAL MOTHER, Appellant IN RE: ADOPTION OF T.J.P., APPEAL OF: M.C., NATURAL MOTHER, Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order Dated February 21, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County Orphans' Court at No(s): 98 OF 2012, 99 OF 2012, 97 OF 2012

BEFORE: BOWES, MUNDY, and COLVILLE, [*] JJ.

MEMORANDUM

BOWES, J.

In these consolidated appeals, J.P. ("Father") appeals from the order dated February 21, 2013, in the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, involuntarily terminating his parental rights to the female child, M.P., born in December of 2010. In addition, M.C. ("Mother") appeals from the separate orders dated February 21, 2013, involuntarily terminating her parental rights to M.P., and to the male child, C.J.P., born in May of 2008, and to the female child, T.J.P., born in February of 2006.[1] We affirm.

On July 25, 2012, the Westmoreland County Children's Bureau ("the Agency") filed separate petitions for the involuntary termination of Father's parental rights to M.P. and Mother's parental rights to M.P., C.J.P. and T.J.P. The trial court held a hearing on the petitions on November 29, 2012. The following witnesses testified at the hearing: Carol Patterson, a psychologist who performed a bonding attachment evaluation with respect to C.J.P. and T.J.P.; Tiffany McKlveen, the Agency caseworker; Mother; K.J., the maternal grandmother ("Maternal Grandmother"), and Father. The testimonial evidence revealed as follows.

On September 30, 2010, the Agency opened a case for services in the home for this family. N.T., 11/29/12, at 22. At the time, Mother was living with Father, and she was pregnant with M.P., who is Father's natural child.[2]Id. at 86-87. On November 17, 2011, M.P., C.J.P., and T.J.P. were placed in the physical custody of the Agency due to Mother's continued drug use, homelessness, failure to begin non-offender services, noncompliance with the terms of her probation, [3] and her violation of a safety plan that required she be supervised with M.P., C.J.P., and T.J.P. Id. at 18, 21. M.P., C.J.P., and T.J.P. were residing with Maternal Grandmother at the time of their placement, and Mother's whereabouts were unknown to the Agency. Id. In addition, at the time of their placement, Father was serving a term of incarceration for having physically assaulted C.J.P. Id. at 18-19. Father was arrested in November of 2010 for this crime, and he remained incarcerated up to and including the time of the termination hearing. Id. at 143. Mother was indicated as a perpetrator by omission as a result of Father's physical abuse of both C.J.P. and T.J.P. Id. at 28-29.

On December 2, 2011, the trial court adjudicated M.P., C.J.P., and T.J.P. dependent. The following family service plan ("FSP") goals were established for Mother: successfully complete drug and alcohol treatment; be referred to the accelerated permanency treatment program; comply with random drug screens; complete non-offender education regarding physical abuse issues and parenting instruction; secure stable and appropriate housing and a verifiable and legal source of income; and cooperate with the terms of her criminal court supervision. Id. at 22-23. Father was directed to participate in all services available in prison, including, but not limited to, parenting instruction, drug and alcohol instruction, anger management counseling and individual counseling; and to contact the Agency upon release from prison for an assessment regarding reunification services. Id. at 23.

By order dated February 21, 2013, the trial court involuntarily terminated Father's parental rights to M.P. pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), and (b). Father timely filed a notice of appeal and concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i) and (b). In addition, by orders dated February 21, 2013, the court involuntarily terminated Mother's parental rights to M.P., C.J.P., and T.J.P. pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), and (b). Mother timely filed separate notices of appeal and concise statements of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i) and (b), which this Court consolidated sua sponte.

Father presents the following issues for our review:

I. Whether the trial court erred in finding by clear and convincing evidence that the moving party met its burden as to terminating the parental rights of Father under 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(1) when he did not know that he was the Father of M.P. until June of 2012 and the termination petition was filed in July of 2012?
II. Whether the trial court erred in finding by clear and convincing evidence that the moving party met its burden as to terminating the parental rights of Father under 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(2) when after Father found out in June of 2012 that M.P. was his daughter he used the resources available while incarcerated to maintain his relationship with M.P.?
III. Whether the trial court erred in finding by clear and convincing evidence that the moving party met its burden as to terminating the parental rights of Father under 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(5) when M.P. was never in her Father's care?
IV. Whether the trial court erred in finding by clear and convincing evidence that the moving party met its burden under 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(b) that the best interests of the child is met by terminating Father's parental rights?

Father's brief at 4.

Mother presents the following issues in her appeal:

I. Whether the trial court erred in finding by clear and convincing evidence that the moving party met its burden as to terminating the parental rights of Mother under 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(1)?
II. Whether the trial court erred in finding by clear and convincing evidence that the moving party met its burden as to terminating the parental rights of Mother under 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(2)?
III. Whether the trial court erred in finding by clear and convincing evidence that the moving party met its burden as to terminating the parental rights of Mother under 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(5)?
IV. Whether the trial court erred in finding by clear and convincing evidence that the moving party met its burden under 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(b) that the best interests of the children are met by terminating Mother's parental rights?

Mother's brief at 4.

We review Father's and Mother's appeals according to 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. 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 ...

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