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In re D.M.J.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

October 8, 2013

IN RE: D.M.J., A MINOR APPEAL OF: R.J., NATURAL FATHER, Appellant IN RE: D.M.J., A MINOR APPEAL OF: R.J., NATURAL FATHER, Appellant IN RE: J.L.J., A MINOR APPEAL OF: R.J., NATURAL FATHER, Appellant IN RE: J.A.J., A MINOR APPEAL OF: R.J., NATURAL FATHER, Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order Dated May 7, 2013, in the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County Orphan's Court Division at Nos. 2013 AD 6A, 2013 AD 6C, 2013 AD 6B, 2013 AD 6

BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., WECHT AND STRASSBURGER, [*] JJ.

MEMORANDUM

FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.

R.J. ("Father") appeals from the orders entered on May 7, 2013, which granted the petitions filed by the Blair County Children and Youth Services ("CYF"), terminating Father's parental rights to his minor children, Do.J. (born 9/01); Da.J. (born 3/04); Jar.J. (born 2/06); and Jad.J. (born 7/08) ("the Children"). We affirm.

The Children were removed from Father's custody in June of 2012. The family had been involved with CYF at various times since 2005. During the ensuing seven years, CYF and other agencies provided a number of services to the family. CYF filed petitions for adjudications of dependency for each of the Children after their removal from the family home. On August 30, 2012, the trial court made an adjudication of dependency for each child. The trial court also suspended contact of each child with both Father and their mother ("Mother") due to an investigation of allegations, made by the Children during counseling, of physical and sexual abuse. The trial court deferred establishing a placement goal until the completion of the investigation.

The result of the investigation was an indicated finding of sexual abuse against Father with regard to Jad.J., his youngest daughter, and against Fred Banks ("Banks"), who lived in the family's home for a period of time, with regard to Da.J., the oldest son. On November 9, 2012, CYF filed a motion for finding of aggravated circumstances as to both Mother[1] and Father. The trial court held a permanency review hearing on November 29, 2012, and a further hearing was conducted on January 10, 2013. On January 15, 2013, the trial court issued orders regarding each child, in which the court (1) determined that the indicated finding of sexual abuse against Father with regard to Jad.J. was founded; (2) found aggravated circumstances against Father with regard to Jad.J.; and (3) established a placement goal of adoption for all four children. Father filed a timely appeal and in a memorandum decision, this court affirmed the orders on July 23, 2013. See In the Int. of Da.J., a minor, et al., No. 370 WDA 2013, unpublished memorandum (Pa.Super. filed July 23, 2013).

While Father's appeal was pending, CYF filed petitions to involuntarily terminate Father's parental rights on February 19, 2013. A hearing on the petitions was held on April 4, 2013. At the hearing, the underlying record of evidence stemming from the juvenile dependency and permanency review hearings was incorporated into the record. Father's parental rights were terminated on May 7, 2013, pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(2). Father now appeals those orders.

The standard and scope of review applicable in termination of parental rights cases are as follows:

When reviewing an appeal from a decree terminating parental rights, we are limited to determining whether the decision of the trial court is supported by competent evidence. Absent an abuse of discretion, an error of law, or insufficient evidentiary support for the trial court's decision, the decree must stand. Where a trial court has granted a petition to involuntarily terminate parental rights, this Court must accord the hearing judge's decision the same deference that we would give to a jury verdict. We must employ a broad, comprehensive review of the record in order to determine whether the trial court's decision is supported by competent evidence.

In re B.L.W., 843 A.2d 380, 383 (Pa.Super. 2004) (en banc), appeal denied, 581 Pa. 668, 863 A.2d 1141 (2004) (internal citations omitted).

Furthermore, we note that the trial court, as the finder of fact, is the sole determiner of the credibility of witnesses and all conflicts in testimony are to be resolved by the finder of fact. The burden of proof is upon the party seeking termination to establish by "clear and convincing" evidence the existence of grounds for doing so.

In re Adoption of A.C.H., 803 A.2d 224, 228 (Pa.Super. 2002) (internal citations omitted). The standard of clear and convincing evidence means testimony that is so clear, direct, weighty, and convincing as to enable the trier of fact to come to a clear conviction, without hesitation, of the truth of the precise facts in issue. In re J.D.W.M., 810 A.2d 688, 690 (Pa.Super. 2002). We may uphold a termination decision if any proper basis exists for the result reached. In re C.S., 761 A.2d 1197, 1201 (Pa.Super. 2000) (en banc). If the trial court's findings are supported by competent evidence, we must affirm the court's decision even though the record could support an opposite result. In re R.L.T.M., 860 A.2d 190, 191-192 (Pa.Super. 2004). The termination of parental rights is controlled by statute. In re Adoption of R.J.S., 901 A.2d 502, 507 (Pa.Super. 2006).

In In re Adoption of C.L.G., 956 A.2d 999 (Pa.Super. 2008) (en banc), this court explained the ...


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