September 12, 2013
IN THE INTEREST OF: I.F., A MINOR APPEAL OF: R.M., MOTHER IN THE INTEREST OF: S.F. APPEAL OF: R.M.
Appeal from the Order Entered September 14, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County Juvenile Division at No: CP-36-DP-0000011-2012, CP-36-DP-0000012-2012
BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., WECHT, J., and COLVILLE, J. [*]
In these consolidated appeals,  R.M. ("Mother") appeals, pro se,  from the September 14, 2012 order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, which adjudicated dependent her daughter, S.F., and her son, I.F., ("Children"), respectively ten and three years old at the time of the hearing.
The Lancaster County Children and Youth Social Service Agency (the "Agency") filed a Petition for Temporary Custody for each child on January 25, 2012, alleging that both were dependent pursuant to the Juvenile Act, 42 Pa.C.S. § 6302(1). In an order entered on February 17, 2012, the trial court designated Berndetta Jensen to serve as the court-appointed special advocate ("CASA") for Children. The trial court heard testimony on April 12, May 24, and June 21, 2012. The trial court issued an initial permanency review order on June 21, 2012. Testimony resumed on August 30, 2012, and was completed the following day, after which the trial court adjudicated Children dependent by an order docketed on September 14, 2012.
Based upon our review of the record, we find substantial evidence to support the trial court's factual account of this case, from which we derive the following narrative. We note initially that the trial court found that Mother was not a credible witness:
[T]he [c]ourt observed that Mother was, at times, less than candid in her testimony, that Mother tends to be manipulative both on the stand and in her daily life practices, and that Mother was consistently evasive under cross-examination. For instance, Mother testified that she is physically able to do anything needed to parent an energetic two year old boy. Yet, she has successfully claimed that she is disabled and presently she is supported by Supplemental Security Income.
Trial Court Opinion ("T.C.O."), 11/13/2012, at 33-34.
S.F. was born in Iraq to Mother and O.R. ("Father"). As of January 2012, the family had been in the United States for four years, having immigrated with the assistance of the Church World Service after insurgents killed their older daughter in retaliation for Father's employment as an interpreter for the United States armed forces. The family settled into a home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, provided rent-free by their landlord, I.K. I.F. was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I.F.'s twin brother died shortly after birth.
After the parties suffered marital difficulties, Father departed the marital residence in October or November 2011. When Father moved out, he declared that he divorced Mother in accordance with Islamic custom. At that time, Father left Mother in charge of Children.
At 9:23 a.m on January 25, 2012, the Agency received a call indicating that a young child had been left home alone. At approximately 10:00 a.m., a Lancaster City police officer received a call that there was a child left unattended at Mother's residence. Upon arrival, the police observed I.F. through a window, lying face-down in a hammock-type chair. The officers knocked on the door. When no one answered, the officers forcibly entered the home. They found no one home except I.F., who had a rope that was tied around his waist and then to a piece of furniture. A chair wedged the front door shut, and two vacuum cleaners blocked the door to the basement. A neighbor gave Mother's mobile phone number to the police. An officer called, but received no answer. Mother returned home at approximately 11:30 a.m, more than two hours after the Agency received the initial call.
The police officers called an ambulance because they did not think that I.F. was breathing properly. He was taken to a hospital emergency room. Alexis Palmer, the Agency caseworker assigned to the family, went to the emergency room and took custody of I.F. after the hospital determined that he was uninjured.
When Mother returned home, she explained to the police officer that she left I.F. alone because she needed to obtain groceries for him and had no one to watch him. She indicated that she did not bring I.F. with her to the church food bank she visited to procure the groceries because he suffered from asthma, and she was concerned that the cold temperatures would aggravate his condition. Mother had no food with her when she arrived at her home. Mother said that there was rat poison placed in the home, and that she restrained I.F. to prevent him from eating it. Mother also explained that there were rats and roaches in the apartment, and that she believed tethering him would protect him from contact with the vermin. Mother admitted to the officers that she was unable to care for Children properly.
At all times that she had custody of Children, including on January 25, 2012, Mother had access to babysitters through the Lancaster Church of the Brethren. Mother was aware that she should not leave I.F. home alone, as evinced by her calls to Father and her landlord on January 25, 2012, asking them to babysit. Mother could not reach either of them.
The officers tried to talk to Father when he arrived at Mother's home that morning, but he drove off. Father subsequently came to the police station and spoke to one of the responding officers there. Father said that he had concerns for I.F. while in Mother's care.
The police picked S.F. up at school that day and took her to the Agency. Later that day, the Agency caseworker, Ms. Palmer, served Mother with petitions for Agency custody. Mother told Ms. Palmer that she tied I.F. up at the advice of her landlord, I.K. I.K. had recommended on another occasion that Mother tether I.F., and Mother reasoned that she had no choice but to do so on the day of the report.
In connection with these events, Mother was charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Her criminal charge was resolved through the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program; ultimately, Mother completed fifty hours of community service to fulfill her obligation.
Mother maintained that there was nothing wrong with tying I.F. up and leaving him home alone. She indicated that tethering children was a common practice in Iraq, and that she was unaware that it was prohibited in the United States. Mother had tethered S.F. to furniture from time to time in Iraq when S.F. was younger. In the year before January 25, 2012, Mother regularly tethered I.F. when she cleaned and when she did laundry in the basement. However, during the dependency proceedings Mother also testified contrarily that January 25, 2012, was the only time she tethered I.F. S.F. indicated to Ms. Palmer that Mother left both Children home alone on a regular basis. On those occasions, Mother would put food – chicken nuggets or fish sticks – and a container of milk on the counter in the kitchen for Children.
After placement, S.F. told her therapist that she had to be a very careful big sister to her little brother at home to ensure his safety. Mother testified that S.F. never was called upon to provide care for I.F. When S.F. first was placed in foster care, she had "shut down" emotionally. However, in mid-February 2012, S.F. relaxed and increased her engagement with her therapist. S.F. told her therapist that she worried about Mother because she was not in the home to help her.
Around the beginning of March 2012, the therapist noticed that S.F. looked well-rested, whereas, when the therapy first began, she always looked tired. S.F. told the therapist that when S.F. was with Mother, Mother gave S.F. sleep medicine every night that made it hard to wake up in the morning, but that S.F. had not needed to take it since entering foster care. Despite these improvements, beginning in March 2012, S.F. had become guarded as to what she would tell the therapist about her visits with Mother and Father, whom she visited under supervision both individually and together. In April 2012, S.F. indicated that if Mother did not complete her "homework, " including getting rid of a mouse in the home, S.F. would have to stay with foster parents forever. In mid-May 2012, S.F. worried that Mother did not like her. At the time of the hearing on May 24, 2012, S.F. suffered from residual symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder,  but her placement in foster care caused her to feel happy and safe.
I.F. was unable to communicate verbally before the April 12, 2012 hearing; he would only cry. However, by April 12, 2012, I.F. was sleeping through the night, something he did not do when he was first placed with the Agency. Indeed, by April 12, 2012, Children were doing well in foster care. Both sought attention and nurturing from their foster parents.
Mother also entered into therapy, and signed a release for her therapist to disclose information to the Agency on February 1, 2012. However, on March 22, 2012, Mother revoked that release. The Agency therefore was unable to get updates regarding Mother's progress in counseling.
The Agency offered Mother and Father separate supervised visits from the beginning of placement, and they did visit Children separately on one or two occasions. Notably, Mother advised Ms. Palmer that Father previously had been violent toward Mother. However, Mother nonetheless expressed her desire to visit jointly with Father. S.F. indicated that she had witnessed Father hit Mother. Mother acknowledged in her testimony that the police had been called to her home due to her fighting with Father on three or four occasions, but denied that he had ever struck her. However, S.F. indicated that she had witnessed Father strike Mother on at least one occasion.
After the April 12, 2012 hearing, Mother requested separate visits, so that the caseworker would see Mother's interactions with Children. When Mother visited Children alone, she did not pay close attention to I.F. Sometimes, during these visits, S.F. tended to I.F. in lieu of Mother. I.F. was observed attempting to open the door exiting the room. On one occasion, he succeeded, and Ms. Palmer had to ask Mother to go after him.
By the time of the August 30, 2012 hearing, the parents were visiting jointly again, allegedly because of Mother's parenting class schedule. At a visit close to the August 30, 2012 hearing, Mother waited twenty minutes to change I.F.'s diaper despite knowing that it was soiled, choosing instead to feed him first. After most visits, Mother and Father ended up arguing loudly in the parking lot of the Agency.
The Agency prohibited Mother from speaking in Arabic during supervised visits with Children, due to concerns that Mother might convey inappropriate messages. When Mother violated that prohibition, S.F. refused to disclose to the caseworker what Mother had said to her. At least through the May 24, 2012 hearing, Mother only interacted minimally with Children during visits. Notably, during one visit, Mother took Children to the bathroom without supervision. A caseworker found her with S.F., who appeared frightened, backed into a corner. Children interacted well with Father.
Ms. Jensen, Children's CASA, is a retired elementary educator with thirty years of experience and with substantial skills in assessing child development. Ms. Jensen saw Children once per week for ninety minutes in the foster home in the time leading up to the May 24, 2012 hearing. As of May 24, 2012, Ms. Jensen had visited Children for approximately eleven weeks. As well, Ms. Jensen had met regularly with Mother for approximately nine weeks, for approximately one hour on each occasion.
When Ms. Jensen first encountered I.F., he spoke very little. But by May 24, 2012, I.F. was using twenty to thirty-five words. S.F. was very quiet when she first met Ms. Jensen. But, as of May 24, 2012, Ms. Jensen had built a rapport with S.F. At the May 24 hearing, Ms. Jensen opined that S.F. lacked social skills and needed to play with other children and learn social etiquette.
S.F. stole things from her foster parents on a regular basis and was sometimes dishonest with them. Mother stated that S.F. never stole anything in her home, and expressed her belief that all of S.F.'s problematic behaviors were due to foster parents' influence.
Mother is a hyper-vigilant parent who tries to control S.F.'s every action. S.F. had a bloody nose while in foster care, and Mother inappropriately demanded that a doctor cauterize S.F.'s nose to stop the bleeding.
Mother receives Supplemental Security Income disability benefits of $750.00 per month, having claimed her scoliosis as disabling. Mother was a stay-at-home parent when the family lived in Iraq,  and admittedly applied for disability benefits to subsidize her stay-at-home parenting in Pennsylvania. However, Mother admitted that she is not physically disabled.
At some time before June 12, 2012, S.F.'s foster mother discovered a notebook among S.F.'s belongings that contained various drawings, including several drawings depicting heterosexual intercourse. Mother testified that S.F. never drew sexual pictures while she resided at Mother's home. Mother produced a notebook belonging to S.F. that Mother found in her home, which did not contain drawings that are explicitly sexual in nature.
The Agency asked Maddi Jane Sobel, an expert on childhood sexual abuse, to interview S.F. and Parents. Ms. Sobel interviewed S.F. on June 12, 2012. During the interview, S.F. demonstrated detailed knowledge of what takes place during heterosexual sex. On August 21, 2012, Ms. Sobel interviewed Parents, with C.S., a friend of the family who speaks Arabic, also present. During that interview, Father interjected answers to questions posed to Mother, and displayed considerable anger and hostility.
This and other evidence, including S.F.'s own comments, suggested that S.F witnessed sexual acts between Parents on many occasions, sometimes while sleeping in their room, and sometimes in the living room. With regard to one living room incident, S.F. indicated that, when Father saw her watching them, he hit her and sent her upstairs. Notwithstanding this evidence, Mother expressed uncertainty as to whether S.F. ever witnessed Mother and Father engage in sexual activity.
After the hearing on June 21, 2012, Mother attended all her visits with Children, and she indicated that she had completed a parenting program as of August 30, 2012, a program she had entered on her own accord. However, she failed to present a certificate of completion to the Agency or the court.
Father had signed a document on May 1, 2008, given to him by Church World Service, that listed activities that are prohibited under American law. Among the enumerated prohibitions was the following:
It is illegal to leave a young child alone in the house, or to leave a young child alone to watch other children. If it is reported, you may lose the right to care for your children, and you may also serve time before being deported. (Usually a child must be 12 years old to be left alone at home.)
Notes of Testimony, 8/30/2012, at 147-48; Guardian's Exhibit 1, 8/30/2012. Mother claimed that Father never informed her about these prohibited activities, and that Father took care of signing important documents upon their arrival in America. Mother acknowledged that she signed documents without reading them, and indicated that she did not have any interest in their contents or import.
The trial court issued its "Order of Adjudication and Disposition – Child Dependent" as to Children on August 30, 2012, and that order was filed on September 14, 2012. Mother filed her notice of appeal and statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i) on October 12, 2012.
1. Was there sufficient evidence to find either of [Children] dependent and to take them into custody[?]
2. Should [Children] have been returned to the Mother's physical custody even if dependency was found[?]
3. Did the Agency make reasonable efforts to "prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the children from the home[?]"
4. Did the [A]gency employ the state's resources in a manner consistent with law and the frequently restated intention by its staff and contractors, of returning the [C]hildren to . . . their parents and home?
Brief for Mother at 9. Although Appellant failed to include issue 4, as stated, in her concise statement of errors on appeal, the substance of that issue is encompassed by issue 3, and we consider it as such.
Our Supreme Court has set forth our standard of review for dependency cases as follows:
[T]he standard of review in dependency cases requires an appellate court to accept the findings of fact and credibility determinations of the trial court if they are supported by the record, but does not require the appellate court to accept the lower court's inferences or conclusions of law. Accordingly, we review for an abuse of discretion.
In re R.J.T., 9 A.3d 1179, 1190 (Pa. 2010).
Under the Juvenile Act, 42 Pa.C.S. §§ 6301, et seq., a "dependent child" is defined as a child who:
is without proper parental care or control, subsistence, education as required by law, or other care or control necessary for his physical, mental, or emotional health, or morals. A determination that there is a lack of proper parental care or control may be based upon evidence of conduct by the parent, guardian or other custodian that places the health, safety or welfare of the child at risk . . . .
42 Pa.C.S. § 6302(1) (definition of "Dependent child").
A dependency hearing involves a two-step process. In the first step, the trial court hears evidence on the dependency petition and determines whether the child is dependent pursuant to the definition set forth in section 6302. See 42 Pa.C.S. § 6341(a). In accordance with the overarching purpose of the Juvenile Act to "preserve the unity of the family whenever possible, " see 42 Pa.C.S. § 6301(b), a child will be declared dependent only when it is "necessary for his welfare, safety or health or in the interests of public safety, " or when proper parental care or control are not immediately available. 42 Pa.C.S. § 6301(b)(3); see In the Interest of R.T., 592 A.2d 55, 57 (Pa. Super. 1991). This Court has defined "proper parental care" as "that care which (1) is geared to the particularized needs of the child and (2) at a minimum, is likely to prevent serious injury to the child." Matter of C.R.S., 696 A.2d 840, 845 (Pa. Super. 1997).
If the trial court finds "clear and convincing" evidence that the child is dependent, the court may move to the second stage, a dispositional hearing, at which it must make an appropriate disposition based on an inquiry into the best interests of the child. 42 Pa.C.S. § 6341(c); In re B.S., 923 A.2d 517, 521 (Pa. Super. 2007). "Clear and convincing" evidence has been defined as evidence that is "so direct and unambiguous as to enable the trier of fact to come to a sure determination, without conjecture, of the truth of the exact facts at issue." C.R.S., 696 A.2d at 845.
In regard to when a child should be removed from parental custody, we have stated:
The law is clear that a child should be removed from her parent's custody and placed in the custody of a state agency only upon a showing that removal is clearly necessary for the child's well-being. In addition, this court ha[s] held that clear necessity for removal is not shown until the hearing court determines that alternative services that would enable the child to remain with her family are unfeasible.
In the Interest of K. B., 419 A.2d 508, 515 (Pa. Super. 1980). "[I]t is not for this [C]ourt, but for the trial court as fact finder, to determine whether [a child's] removal from her family was clearly necessary." In the Interest of S.S., 651 A.2d 174, 177 (Pa. Super. 1994).
We begin our discussion of Mother's issues by noting a fundamental failing in Mother's entire argument as to this and all of her issues: At great length, Mother almost exclusively endeavors to dispute the trial court's findings of fact, either by contending that the evidence upon which the court relied failed to establish the finding for which it was cited, or by pointing to contradictory evidence, often self-serving testimony of Mother and her friends. In so arguing, Mother fails to appreciate that this Court may not reweigh the facts when the evidence submitted is adequate to establish a foundation for the trial court's fact-finding. See R.J.T.; S.S., supra.
As we noted at the outset of this Memorandum, the trial court expressly found Mother to be incredible, noting that she had been argumentative and self-contradictory in her testimony. T.C.O. at 33-34. This determination is vested solely in the trial court's discretion. Mother directs us to nothing except the evidence more favorable to her view of what is best for Children to demonstrate that the trial court abused its discretion in manifesting bias or ill will toward her. The trial court, like the Agency, in this case as in all cases, was presented with reams of evidence in a challenging determination of whether Children were dependent, and, if so, whether their dependency would be addressed most effectively while Children resided in Mother's home or remained in foster care. We may not and will not second-guess the trial court's first-hand evaluation of the extensive, principally testimonial evidence upon which the court's ruling necessarily relied. See S.S., supra.
To similar effect is Mother's nearly complete failure to direct this Court to legal authorities supporting her assertion that the trial court abused its discretion. The paucity of case law is most likely a product of her desire chiefly to relitigate the trial court's fact-finding. Asking this Court to reweigh the record before the trial court is not a request for which there is supporting case law. To the contrary, at risk of belaboring the point, our cases make eminently clear that this is not our function in the context of a child dependency determination. Mother's insistence on relitigating the trial court's assessment of the record in lieu of presenting meaningful legal argument in furtherance of establishing an abuse of discretion arguably calls for this Court to deem her issues waived, pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 2119(a), which requires an appellant to direct this Court's attention to legal authorities supporting the appellant's request for relief. Nonetheless, because dependency proceedings fundamentally are fact-intensive inquiries, we will address the merits of Mother's arguments seriatim.
Mother first questions whether Children continued to meet the criteria for dependency as of the final hearing on August 31, 2012. An examination of the goals established for Mother, and the extent to which she had accomplished them by that date, reveals that the trial court did not err in determining that Children remained dependent, despite Mother's modest signs of progress relative to those goals.
At the outset of its involvement, the Agency established eight goals for Mother in the Child Permanency Plan ("CPP"). Those goals were: (1) improve mental health functioning to the extent that Mother can care for her children; (2) remain crime free; (3) learn and use good parenting skills; (4) be financially stable in order to provide for herself and her children; (5) obtain and maintain a home free and clear of hazards to herself and her children; (6) maintain an ongoing commitment to her children; (7) remain free of violence; and, (8) improve family relationships. T.C.O. at 28-29; Brief for the Agency at 8-9.
The trial court made the following findings regarding each of those goals as of August 31, 2012:
(1) Mental Health: Mother has been in therapy for a long time, and she remains in therapy. Because Mother revoked the release she had formerly given to her therapist, the Agency is uninformed in respect to the goals of Mother's therapy or her progress in attaining those goals. In light of the extent of the dissonance between Mother's views, as expressed in her practices, and the norms extant in our society in respect to safety issues pertaining to [Children], Mother's failure to complete this objective is a concern of notable magnitude.
(2) Crime[-]Free Lifestyle: Mother has not become involved in the criminal justice system since the charge brought against her as a result of the events of January 25, 2012 (which was resolved through Mother's successful completion of the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program).
(3) Parenting: Mother attended a group parenting class on her own volition, which is commendable. However, as Mother went through the program without the Agency's involvement, the provider was not informed regarding the context which defined Mother's training needs, assuming that . . . classroom instruction might be tailored in any respect to meet those needs. Also, while Mother testified that she had completed the classroom parenting program (and would receive a certificate to that effect later the same day as the last hearing), there was no reliable proof that Mother had, in fact, completed the program. Of greater significance, this entire case began when it came to light that there were critical lapses in Mother's comprehension of appropriate parenting. In this case, the utilization of a personal parent trainer will be of great value in the accurate assessment of Mother's [baseline] skills and in provided [sic] the specialized, practice by practice training necessary to bring Mother to the point of success. As of the date of the last hearing, a personal parent trainer had not yet begun to work with Mother and that critical point of success had not been attained.
(4) Income: Mother's income is sufficient for her and [Children].
(5) Housing: Mother's housing is sufficient for her and [Children].
(6) Commitment: Mother has been faithful in attending visits with [Children]. But, on many occasions, Mother has not been appropriately interactive or engaged with [Children]. Mother's ability to remain focused and engaged is a skill for Mother to enhance with the assistance of her therapist and her personal parent trainer.
(7) Domestic Violence: Mother and Father's immigration to the United States was born of their immersion in the milieu of violence in war-torn Iraq. The family suffered mightily as a consequence of Father's service as an interpreter for United States military forces. Before the Agency became involved, the police responded to the family's home in Lancaster on several occasions because of loud domestic disputes. There were numerous instances since the family's involvement with the Agency where Father displayed bitterness and a quickness to anger. There were several occasions where Mother and Father were observed to engage in loud disputes, even in public places. Mother reported that Father had hit her.  As the Court found, Mother and Father remain in a mutually dependent, coupled relationship. The concern about domestic violence, as it pertain[s] to the relationship between Mother and Father, remains. Finally, while there is no reason to believe that Mother's actions in binding [Children] was born of ill will, there is a concern that such action may well be perceived by [Children] in the same manner as domestic violence is perceived. As of the time of the final hearing, Mother had not addressed the Domestic Violence objective of the CPP.
(8) Family Relationships: The Court accepted as true the expert's recommendation that various forms of counseling and therapy are needed to assure that safe, healthy relationships are maintained between Mother and Father and between [Children] and their parents in the future.
T.C.O. at 29-32.
Our review reveals that these findings, while perhaps debatable in light of contradictory evidence, nonetheless are supported by the evidence of record, effectively ending our prerogative to further indulge Mother's attempt to relitigate those findings. Mother failed fully to meet the goals set for her, rendering Children without proper parental care and control as of August 30, 2102. Accordingly, Mother's first issue lacks merit.
In her second issue, Mother argues that, even if the trial court did not err in adjudicating Children dependent, the court nonetheless erred in not returning Children to her physical custody during continuing efforts to vitiate their dependency. In finding Children dependent, the trial court determined that shortcomings in the state of Mother's mental health and her ability to parent Children, goals one and three of the CPP, continued to exist. These alone are sufficient grounds to find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to return Children to Mother's custody. Thus, the trial court's decision that custody should remain with the Agency while Mother continued her efforts to achieve the goals set by the Agency was not an abuse of the trial court's discretion.
Finally, in issues three and four, Mother questions whether the Agency made reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need to remove Children from her physical custody. In raising this question, Mother ignores the fact that the first contact that the Agency had with the family was the January 25, 2012 incident, in which the police found I.F., a toddler at the time, home alone, tethered to a piece of furniture in a dwelling containing rat poison and roaches while Mother spent over two-hours allegedly obtaining milk from a local food bank, from which she ultimately returned empty-handed. The absence of any efforts to avoid placement in these circumstances was not only reasonable; it was unavoidable. As for the Agency's efforts to assist Mother in regaining custody of Children, our review of the record confirms that the Agency has been proactive in seeking to improve Mother's parental conduct to a degree that would enable her to recover custody. Her arguments to the contrary are vague and unavailing. Mother's third and fourth issues lack merit.
In closing, we underscore our agreement with the trial court's own emphasis on what the trial court and we believe to be the manifestly remediable circumstances that led to the unfortunate situation now presented. The trial court's words bear repeating:
[The trial court] reiterates its empathy for the family in this case. Together they have suffered unfathomable tragedy in the brutal murder of a child. Their tragedy was then compounded by a forced relocation away from family and friends across thousands of miles, which was then followed by persistent struggles to adapt and to find economic self-sufficiency. They were further burdened by the death of an infant child. The Court has pledged the aid of the resources available to assist them in addressing their apparent needs to the extent possible, but for the time being the Court remains convinced that [Children] must be protected.
T.C.O. at 37.
Mother's brief is laced with accusations, express and implied, that the Agency and the courts are conspiring to deprive her of Children permanently. She frequently reminds this Court of Father's service to the United States, and the tremendous price their family paid for his service. She further bemoans what she believes to have been a degree of indifference on the part of the Agency in assisting her in achieving her goals.
In the wake of our legally necessary remand to ensure that Mother understood fully her entitlement to counsel and knowingly and voluntarily waived that right, Mother simply expands the range of her attack to encompass this Court. She effectively accuses this Court of deliberately or negligently delaying resolution of this case.
We reject Mother's allegation that anyone has conspired to permanently remove Children, which is patently at odds with the considerable time, energy, and resources invested in the contrary result. Similarly, we reject Mother's suggestion that any person, jurist or otherwise, has aimed to do anything other than restore her custody or otherwise resolve the situation that led to the trial court's finding of dependency as expeditiously as is fair, feasible, and in compliance with governing law. Her disdain for these efforts, and her attempts to impugn the many people behind them, does nothing to further her argument. Before this Court and others, as in most facets of life, Mother will attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Even if the underlying premises of some of these assertions are true – that Mother simply parented Children in the ways deemed acceptable in her native Iraq, that the trial court's findings are uncharitable given her difficulties with the English language, and that the trial court unfairly disregarded some experts over others, which is not only the trial court's province but its job as fact-finder – our own review of the record suggests that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in questioning Mother's credibility in light of her truculence and inconsistent testimony. The testimony of the various objective participants in the dependency process provided ample cause to preserve the status quo, with Children in foster care, where they appeared to be flourishing, pending Mother's further efforts to establish her ability to tend adequately to Children's health, safety, and welfare.
That being said, we also wish to underscore our belief that the evidence of record establishes that there is little if anything irremediable standing between Mother and Children. We understand that the rules may be different in Mother's native land, but the rules of this jurisdiction must prevail for those who reside here. Just as it is incumbent on the trial court to consider Mother's motives and degree of care relative to her own cultural inheritance rather than ours, Mother must establish to the trial court's satisfaction that she appreciates both the substance of Pennsylvania's minimum expectations of a parent and the necessity of adhering to them. In seeking to do so, she must remain attentive to the court's expectations and make every effort to satisfy them. Based upon the record, we are confident that Mother has the capacity to do so, and trust that the Agency and trial court will do everything in their respective powers to enable her to achieve full reunification. That the trial court already has restored Mother's physical custody strongly suggests that the trial court and the Agency are doing precisely that.
For the foregoing reasons, we find that the record supports the trial court's adjudication of dependency for Children. Moreover, we find no error in the trial court's determination that, under the circumstances at the time of the determination. Agency custody was necessary for their well-being.
Application for relief denied.