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In re K.S.W.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

October 4, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF: K.S.W., JR., A MINOR APPEAL OF: K.S.W., SR., FATHERIN THE INTEREST OF: K.S.W., JR., A MINOR APPEAL OF: T.S.T., MOTHER

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order entered February 1, 2013 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Family Court at No(s): CP-51-AP-0000040-2013.

BEFORE: PANELLA, OLSON, and PLATT [*], JJ.

MEMORANDUM

PANELLA, J.

Appellants, K.S.W., Sr., ("Father"), and T.S.T. ("Mother"), appeal[1]from the orders entered on February 1, 2013, terminating Father's and Mother's parental rights to their son, K.S.W., Jr., (born in September of 2005) ("Child") and changing the permanency goal for Child to adoption pursuant to section 6351 of the Juvenile Act, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6351. We affirm.

The record reveals the following relevant facts and procedural history. The family first came to the attention of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services ("DHS") on September 3, 2010, as the result of a General Protection report. The General Protective Services report ("GPS") alleged that Mother gave birth to Child's sibling, A., in August of 2010. The GPS report alleged that Mother suffered from mental illness, and that she did not have any of her other children in her personal care.[2] Child resided with Father at the time. On September 8, 2010, Mother was discharged from the hospital, at which time Mother and baby A. resided with A.B., who is not baby A.'s natural father. The GPS report received at the time was substantiated. Trial Court Opinion, 5/22/13 at 1-2.

On September 16, 2010, DHS learned that Child was not up-to-date with his immunizations, and that he had not been examined by a pediatrician since April of 2008. In addition, Child suffers from severe asthma, and he had been taken to the emergency room three times during the previous summer due to respiratory distress caused by mismanagement of his asthma condition. It was reported that Child did not receive any follow-up care subsequent to his hospital discharges. Id. at 2.

A DHS social worker, Terry Bailey, was assigned to Child's case. On September 27, 2010, Ms. Bailey found Father and Child living with Father's friend, R.J., in the home of R.J.'s paramour. On October 8, 2010, Ms. Bailey implemented In-Home Protective Services ("IHPS"). In December of 2010, Father, Child, and R.J. were evicted from the home due to a disagreement between R.J. and his paramour. At that time, Father asked R.W., his sister and Child's aunt ("Paternal Aunt"), to care for Child. However, Father refused to provide financial assistance. Father did provide transportation to and from school, and Father did help Child with his homework. DHS learned shortly after Child's move that he was involved in sexually inappropriate behavior at school and he was referred for psychological and psychosexual evaluations at the Joseph J. Peters Institute ("JJPI). Id.

On October 12, 2010, a Family Service Plan ("FSP") was developed for the family. The stated classification for Child was "At Imminent Risk of Being Removed From the Home." DHS did not provide Mother with any FSP objectives. Father's objectives were to: (1) attend parenting classes and a support group for asthma; (2) attend all of Child's medical appointments; provide a safe home for the family with operable utilities; and, attend training/vocational programs. DHS noted that Mother was severely cognitively impaired, and that two of her other children were not in her custody, one of whom was under the care of DHS. DHS also observed that Child had not had a well-child appointment since he was thirty-three months of age, and that he had been diagnosed with severe asthma. Id. at 2-3.

In May of 2011, DHS discovered that Father was hitting Child on the head when he became frustrated with Child over his homework. Ms. Bailey and the IHPS worker visited the home where Child resided and told Father that he cannot and must not address his frustration over Child's homework with physical discipline. Father informed Ms. Bailey and the IHPS worker that, if he could not physically discipline Child, then he would no longer assist Child with his homework, or care for him in general. Id. at 3.

On June 23, 2011, another FSP meeting was held. The goals for Child and Father remained the same. The FSP goal for Mother was to comply with all treatment recommendations, including therapy and medication as prescribed. DHS noted that Father's whereabouts were unknown, and that Child continued to reside with Paternal Aunt. Id. 4.

On July 8, 2011, an adjudicatory hearing was held, and the trial court adjudicated Child dependent. Child was committed to DHS's care, and DHS ordered both Father and Mother to the Achieving Reunification Center ("ARC") for service. Father was referred to JJPI, and Mother was referred to Behavioral Health Services ("BHS") for appropriate intervention. Id.

A permanency hearing was held on October 4, 2011. Mother was found not to be compliant with her FSP objective, while Father was found to be in minimal compliance with his FSP objectives. The trial court ordered DHS to schedule Child for a full psychosexual evaluation. Id.

A permanency review hearing was held on January 3, 2012. Father was found to be in substantial compliance with his FSP objectives, and Mother was found to be in minimal compliance with her FSP objectives. Mother was attending the ARC, but her case was closed out due to her non-compliance. Id. Father was attending ARC consistently and was maintaining regular telephone contact with Child. Id. The master ordered a Parent Locator System ("PLS") search for Mother. Id.

On March 27, 2012, a permanency review hearing was held before the trial court. The trial court found that Mother was not in compliance with her FSP objective. Mother was referred to ARC, but was not attending. Moreover, Mother had not visited with Child. Conversely, Father was in substantial compliance with his FSP objectives. The trial court determined that Father was attending ARC regularly, but that Father's visitation with Child was inconsistent. The court ordered that family therapy was to be implemented when appropriate, and that DHS was to follow-up with Child's psychosexual evaluation. Id. at 4-5.

On June 26, 2012, the FSP was revised and Child's permanency goal was changed to adoption. DHS added the additional goal of attending parenting education training in addition to the other goals from the previous FSP. DHS noted that Father had unstable and inappropriate housing, that Father's visitation with Child was sporadic, and that Father desired to relinquish his parental rights to Child. In addition, DHS found that Mother had ongoing mental health issues and mental impairment, that Mother was non-compliant with her FSP objectives, and that she had not bonded with Child. Father attended the hearing and signed the new FSP. Mother did not attend the hearing. Id. at 5.

On September 7, 2012, another permanency review hearing was held, and the trial court found both Father and Mother to be in minimal compliance with their FSP objectives. The court further recognized that Father and Mother visited Child sporadically and were discharged from ARC due to their non-compliance. Id. at 5-6.

On December 28, 2012, the FSP was reviewed, and the permanency goal remained adoption. Mother was given FSP objectives of (1) attending parenting education concerning asthma, (2) attending all of Child's medical appointments, (3) providing safe and appropriate housing, and (4) participating in a parenting capacity evaluation. DHS noted that Father was unable to provide appropriate housing; that his visitation of Child was sporadic; and that Father was willing to voluntarily relinquish his parental rights to Child. DHS also asserted that Mother was non-compliant with all of her objectives and never maintained consistent contact with Child. Father did not attend the hearing. On the other hand, Mother attended the hearing, but refused to sign the new FSP. Id. at 6.

On January 17, 2013, DHS filed petitions to involuntarily terminate Father's and Mother's parental rights to Child and petitions to change Child's permanency goal to adoption. A termination hearing was held on February 1, 2013.

At the hearing, Ms. Bailey testified that, at the time of the termination hearing, Father was renting a room in a boarding house. Ms. Bailey also testified that Father had never provided any documentation that he completed any class at ARC, and that Father was discharged from ARC due to noncompliance. Ms. Bailey noted that Father did not participate in Child's therapy beyond the intake appointment, and never called to inquire as to Child's progress in his therapy. N.T., 2/1/13, at 34-35. Ms. Bailey testified that DHS petitioned the trial court to terminate the parental rights of Father due to "[h]ousing and inconsistent, irregular contact with [K.W.], and. . . parent education about [asthma]. And because of K.W.'s other behavioral problems." Id. at 38.

As to Mother, Ms. Bailey testified that, although Mother was referred to BHS, she did not comply with the referral, and that Mother never provided documental regarding any mental health treatment. Ms. Bailey further testified that she had concerns regarding "cognitive abilities to care for [K.W.], " which she based partly on Mother's other children being removed from her care and GPS reports of abandonment. Id. at 29-30. Ms. Bailey asserted she completed a PLS search on Mother in order to acquire her home address. However, when she made an unannounced visit to the home, she was unable to gain access. Id. at 30.

Ms. Bailey testified that, although Mother was referred to ARC, she never participated in any of the ARC programs, and that Mother's case was closed in 2011. Mother was re-referred to ARC, but she never took part in any of the services. Ms. Bailey acknowledged that Mother never inquired about Child's therapy or schooling, and that Mother never attended any of Child's medical appointments. Id. at 32-33. Ms. Bailey testified that she sent correspondence to Mother repeatedly between the beginning of the case in September of 2010 and the last FSP meeting in December of 2012, and that none of the mail was returned. Ms. Bailey conceded that Mother had only attended one FSP meeting, i.e., in December of 2012, and made her first court appearance at the termination hearing. Id. at 42-44.

Ms. Bailey noted that Mother's visits never progressed beyond supervised visits, and, during Mother's visits, she only spent a few minutes talking with Child, and then proceeded to talk with the Foster Mother about things. Child stated that he and Mother do not "have much to talk about." Id. at 31-32. Ms. Bailey stipulated that, although Child calls Mother "Mom, " she is unaware of any bond between Mother and Child. Id. 22-23.

Ms. Bailey also concluded that Father and Child are bonded, but not in the same way as father and son. Father's visits are irregular and inconsistent. Due to Father's inconsistent visits, Child has temper tantrums, nightmares, and acts out both at home and in school. Child's behavior subsequently stabilizes when Father has not visited for some time. Id. at 21, 35.

At the hearing, Ms. Bailey testified that Child has lived in Paternal Aunt's home since December of 2010. Child knew Paternal Aunt before that time since he had lived there previously. Id. at 33. Ms. Bailey testified that Paternal Aunt took care of Child's day-to-day needs. She takes him to school, his medical appointments, and his therapy appointments. Child looks to Paternal Aunt for comfort, and Paternal Aunt considers him for comfort. Ms Bailey testified that Paternal Aunt and Child have a "very good, positive, warm, loving relationship." Id. at 33-34.

By order of the same date, the trial court granted DHS's petitions to terminate Father's and Mother's parental rights and DHS's petitions to change Child's permanency goal to adoption.

Father and Mother timely filed their notices of appeal and concise statements of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i) and (b) on March 4, 2013.[3]

Father raises two issues on appeal:

1. Did the Trial Court err in terminating [Father's] parental rights under Pa.C.S. Section 2511?
2. Did the Trial Court err in finding that termination best served [Child's] developmental, physical and emotional needs under sub-section 2511(b)?

Father's Brief, at 4-6.

On appeal, Mother raises two issues:

1. Whether DHS' service of process was improper where Mother was not served? She was not served at the address pursuant to the PLS Locator. Mother never received the goal change and termination petitions[, ] and DHS failed to serve Mother 15 days prior to the hearing.
2. Was the evidence clear and convincing to support the court order terminating Mother's parental rights pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 2511(b)?

Mother's Brief, at 3.

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., 608 Pa. 9, 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., [ ___ Pa. ___, ] 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., [ ___ Pa. ___], 34 A.3d 1, 51 (Pa. 2011); Christianson v. Ely, [575 Pa. 647, 654-655], 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., [608 Pa. At 28-30], 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, [539 Pa. 161, 165, ] 650 A.2d 1064, 1066 (Pa. 1994).

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

Moreover, we have explained that:

[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)).

Section 2511 of the Adoption Act provides in pertinent part:

(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:
(8) The child has been removed from the care of the parent by the court or under a voluntary agreement with an agency, 12 months or more have elapsed from the date of removal or placement, the conditions which led to the removal or placement of the child continue to exist and termination of parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of the child.
(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.

23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(8), (b).

Further we have stated:

[U]nder Section 2511, the court must engage in a bifurcated process prior to terminating parental rights. Initially, the focus is on the conduct of the parent. The party seeking termination must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the parent's conduct satisfies the statutory grounds for termination delineated in Section 2511(a). Only after determining that the parent's conduct warrants termination of his or her parental rights must the court engage in the second part of the analysis: determination of the needs and welfare of the child under the standard of best interests of the child. Although a needs and welfare analysis is mandated by the statute, it is distinct from and not relevant to a determination of whether the parent's conduct justifies termination of parental rights under the statute. One major aspect of the needs and welfare analysis concerns the nature and status of the emotional bond between parent and child.

In re Adoption of R.J.S., 901 A.2d 502, 508 (Pa.Super. 2006).

"[W]e need only agree with [a trial court's] decision as to any one subsection [of 2511(a), along with 2511(b), ] in order to affirm the termination of parental rights." In re B.L.W., 843 A.2d 380, 384 (Pa.Super. 2004) (en banc).

To terminate parental rights pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(8), the following factors must be demonstrated: (1) the child has been removed from parental care for 12 months or more from the date of removal; (2) the conditions which led to the removal or placement of the child continue to exist; and (3) termination of parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of the child. Section [2511] (a)(8) sets a 12-month time frame for a parent to remedy the conditions that led to the children's removal by the court. Once the 12-month period has been established, the court must next determine whether the conditions that led to the child's removal continue to exist, despite the reasonable good faith efforts of [the child welfare agency] supplied over a realistic time period. Termination under Section 2511(a)(8) does not require the court to evaluate a parent's current willingness or ability to remedy the conditions that initially caused placement or the availability or efficacy of [the child welfare agency] services.

In re K.Z.S., 946 A.2d 753, 758-759 (Pa.Super. 2008) (internal citations omitted).

We have observed as follows regarding the "needs and welfare" analysis pertinent to Sections 2511(a)(8) and (b):

[I]nitially, the focus in terminating parental rights is on the parent, under Section 2511(a), whereas the focus in Section 2511(b) is on the child. However, Section 2511(a)(8) explicitly requires an evaluation of the "needs and welfare of the child" prior to proceeding to Section 2511(b), which focuses on the "developmental, physical and emotional needs and welfare of the child." Thus, the analysis under Section 2511(a)(8) accounts for the needs of the child in addition to the behavior of the parent. Moreover, only if a court determines that the parent's conduct warrants termination of his or her parental rights, pursuant to Section 2511(a), does a court "engage in the second part of the analysis pursuant to Section 2511(b): determination of the needs and welfare of the child under the standard of best interests of the child." Accordingly, while both Section 2511(a)(8) and Section 2511(b) direct us to evaluate the "needs and welfare of the child, " we are required to resolve the analysis relative to Section 2511(a)(8), prior to addressing the "needs and welfare" of [the child], as proscribed by Section 2511(b); as such, they are distinct in that we must address Section 2511(a) before reaching Section 2511(b).

In Re Adoption of C.L.G., 956 A.2d 999, 1008-09 (Pa.Super. 2008) (en banc) (citations omitted).

On appeal, Father argues that the record contains insufficient evidence for the termination of his parental rights, pursuant to Section 2511(b). Father argues that DHS failed to establish clear and convincing evidence that termination of Father's parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of Child. Father notes that Child is in kinship care with Paternal Aunt, and that there is no evidence that Paternal Aunt is unable or unwilling to care for Child other than by way of adoption. Father also assets that testimony is clear that Child is bonded to Father; that Father remains in contact with Child; that Father visits Child when Father's health permits; and that the only concern regarding Father's interaction is that, on one occasion, Father inexplicably missed a visit with Child. No evidence was introduced as to the cause of said missed visit, and Father asserts that he missed visit may have occurred when Father was hospitalized.

We find no error of law or abuse of discretion in the trial court's conclusions. Father does not contest that Child has been removed for more than twelve months. Our review of the record finds support for the conclusion that conditions that gave rise to the removal of the Child, namely, Father's inability to care for Child's medical needs, Father's inappropriate housing, and Father's inconsistent visitation were presented early; these conditions remained problematic throughout the case.

The trial court noted that the case originally came to the attention of DHS "because of a GPS report stating that Father had not taken [Child] to a pediatrician in two years; because [Child] did not have his immunizations; and, because [Child] had three severe asthma attacks without appropriate follow-up the previous summer." Trial Court Opinion, 5/22/13, at 18. The trial court found that the evidence demonstrated that Father was given the FSP objective of attending parenting classes regarding Child's proper medical care at ARC but never complied with the objective. Furthermore, competent evidence revealed that Father did not participate in Child's therapy beyond the intake appointment, and that Father never called DHS to inquire as to Child's progress with his therapy. Id. at 19.

Competent record evidence also showed that Father was evicted from the home in which he and Child resided in 2010. Father then began to live with Paternal Aunt. At the time of the termination hearing, almost twenty-five months later, Father was still renting a room in a boarding house. Thus, the trial court properly determined the Father never remedied the FSP objective of obtaining proper housing for Child. Id.

Although the trial court and DHS acknowledged that Father visited Child, Father's visitation schedule was found to be irregular and inconsistent. Father had been given liberal visitation in Paternal Aunt's home, but Father only visited six or seven times in the fourteen months prior to the termination of Father's parental rights. Only six months after Child began to reside with Paternal Aunt, Father refused to visit Child for several months following a dispute with DHS concerning Father's discipline of Child when child was doing his homework. Ms. Bailey opined that Father's irregular visitation contributed to Child's erratic behavior. Id. at 19. Thus, evidence supports the trial court's conclusion that conditions that led to the removal of the Children were not yet remedied at the time of the filing of the termination petition.

As to the third prong of Section 2511(a)(8), whether the termination of parental rights would serve the needs and welfare of Child, we find that clear and convincing evidence supports the conclusion that termination of parental rights serves the needs and welfare of Child. Our review of the record reveals that Father is unable to provide Child with a safe environment in which his developmental, physical, and emotional needs will be met. Evidence showed that Child is currently living in foster care at the home of Paternal Aunt and is well-adjusted. Child is undergoing treatment for his asthma condition and has received all of his immunizations. Child is also continuing to progress in school and therapy, and Child is adjusting to his new family. Therefore, we find no error of law or abuse of discretion in the trial court's application of Section 2511(a)(8) in terminating Father's parental rights to Child.

We observe that Mother only challenges the termination of her parental rights to Child under section 2511(b). Thus, she has waived any challenge to section 2511(a). See Krebs v. United Refining Co., 893 A.2d 776, 797 (Pa.Super. 2006) ("We will not ordinarily consider any issue if it has not been set forth in or suggested by an appellate brief's statement of questions involved, Pa.R.A.P. 2116(a). . . .").

With respect to Section 2511(b), we have explained:

Subsection 2511(b) focuses on whether termination of parental rights would best serve the developmental, physical, and emotional needs and welfare of the child. In In re C.M.S., 884 A.2d 1284, 1287 (Pa.Super. 2005), this Court stated, "Intangibles such as love, comfort, security, and stability are involved in the inquiry into the needs and welfare of the child." In addition, we instructed that the trial court must also discern the nature and status of the parent-child bond, with utmost attention to the effect on the child of permanently severing that bond. Id. However, in cases where there is no evidence of a bond between a parent and child, it is reasonable to infer that no bond exists. In re K.Z.S., 946 A.2d 753, 762-63 (Pa.Super. 2008). Accordingly, the extent of the bond-effect analysis necessarily depends on the circumstances of the particular case. Id. at 63. In Re: Adoption of J.M., 991 A.2d 321, 324 (Pa.Super. 2010).

In this case, Mother and Father both argue that the record does not support the termination of their parental rights since the trial court must consider whether termination would best serve the development, physical, and emotional need of Child. The trial court must also consider the nature and status of the parent-child bond.

Father observed that Ms. Bailey testified as to Child's interest in visiting with Father, the appropriateness of Father's visits, Father's communications with Ms. Bailey concerning Child, Father's telephone calls to Child and Paternal Aunt, and birthday and Christmas gifts that Father gave to Child. Father asserts that Ms. Bailey testified to the fact that Child is very bonded to Father, but alleges Ms. Bailey determined that Father's sporadic and inconsistent visitation caused behavioral problems for Child. Father described Ms. Bailey's testimony as vague and inconclusive, and he claims it did not indicate that Ms. Bailey had evaluated the effect on Child should Father's parental rights be terminated. Father challenges Ms. Bailey's professional qualifications to make such evaluations. Father's Brief, at 8-9.

In addition, Mother argues that DHS failed to provide any testimony that a bond did not exist since the case workers never saw Mother and Child interact. Mother argues that she visited Child, as she had liberal supervised visits with Child at the Paternal Aunt's home. Mother also asserted that she called and talked with Child and Paternal Aunt.

Competent record evidence revealed that Paternal Aunt has taken care of Child's daily needs exclusively for seventeen months, "including taking him to school, medical appointments, and therapy appointments." Trial Court Opinion, 5/22/13, at 27. Evidence also showed that Child looks to Paternal Aunt for comfort. Paternal Aunt considers Child to be family, and Child and Paternal Aunt have a "very good, positive, warm, loving relationship." Id.

The record shows that Child is doing well. Child is in a pre-adoptive with home where he is thriving and doing well. Both the trial court and DHS acknowledge the existence at some level of a bond between the Child and Father, but find that the bond is not a normal father/child bond, and that Child will not be adversely affected by permanently severing this bond. See K.K.R.-S., 958 A.2d 529, 535 (Pa.Super. 2008) (children's attachment to natural parents through abuse, neglect, failure to correct parenting, and behavioral disorders, cannot be misconstrued as bonding for purposes of termination of parental rights analysis). Father has not had control over Child's care since December of 2010. The court also notes that the Child has no observable bond with Mother. See Trial Court Opinion, 5/22/13, at 8-9.; N.T., 12/17/12, at 62-64, 78. The court found that it was Mother's activity, or inactivity, which prevented Ms. Bailey from testifying more completely about any potential bond. After a review of all of the evidence, the trial correctly court held that DHS is required to make reasonable efforts to promote reunification of parent and child, but does not have the obligation to make such efforts indefinitely. See In re Adoption of M.E.P., 825 A.2d 1266, 1276 (Pa.Super. 2003). Therefore, we conclude that competent evidence supports the trial court's involuntary termination of Father's and Mother's parental rights pursuant to Section 2511(b). See In re: Adoption of J.M., 991 A.2d at 324.

In her first issue, Mother argues that she was not properly served with DHS' Termination Petition and Petition for Change of Goal fifteen days prior to the hearing. Mother contends that the process server failed to go to the address listed in the PLS and, thus, DHS "failed to serve Mother with a copy of the goal change petition and the termination of parental rights petition within the time required 14 days prior to the court hearing." Mother's Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) Statement, 3/14/14.

In this case, the trial court properly overruled Mother's objection to service of the termination petition pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2503(b) and 23 Pa.C.S.A. 2513(b). The relevant law pertaining to service of a termination petition provides:

(b) Notice.—At least ten [(10)] days' notice shall be given to the parent or parents, putative, or parent of a minor parent whose rights are to be terminated, by personal service or by registered mail to his or their last known address or by such other means as the court may require. A copy of the notice shall be given in the same manner to the other parent, putative father or parent or guardian of a minor parent whose rights are to be terminated.

23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 2513(b), 2503(b) (emphasis added).

In this case, the trial court found that Daniel Goren, the Assistant City Solicitor, notified the trial court that Mother was served with notice of the termination hearing and a copy of the Termination Petition on January 20, 2013, or twelve days prior to the February 1, 2013 termination hearing. Thus, Mother was served well within the 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2513(b) ten-day requirement. This Court finds the trial court's decision to overrule Mother's objection as to service of the Termination Petition was proper. 23 Pa.C.S.A. §2513(b). In addition, Mother's counsel represented Mother for at least a year, had a copy of the Termination Petition to the time of the hearing, and he and Mother were present at the hearing and took part in the proceeding. Trial Court Opinion, 5/22/13, at 31-33.

The trial court also found that it need not engage in an analysis of the timing of service of the Goal Change Petition since a goal change petition merely changes the court's internal goal to adoption, and the termination of parental rights may proceed without a goal change to adoption. Trial Court Opinion, 5/22/13, at 33. (citing In re M.G., 855 A.2d 68, 70 (Pa.Super. 2005); In re N.W., 859 A.2d 501, 507-509 (Pa.Super. 2005)). We find no error on the part of the trial court.

We also observe that both Father and Mother do not challenge the change of the Child's permanency goal to adoption in their Statement of Questions Involved in their briefs. Thus, they have waived any challenge to the trial Court decree changing Child's permanency goal to adoption. See Krebs, 893 A.2d at 797.

Accordingly, we affirm the orders of the trial court involuntarily terminating Father's and Mother's parental rights to the Child pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 2511(a)(8) and (b), and changing the permanency goal to adoption.

Orders affirmed.

Judgment Entered.


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