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In re S.H.J.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

October 21, 2013


Appeal from the Order entered September 25, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Juvenile Division, at Nos. CP-51-DP-0000556-2011, CP-51-DP-0113384-2009

Joseph D. Seletyn, Esq.




In these consolidated appeals[1], C.H. ("Maternal Aunt"), the maternal aunt of S.H.J. and A.J. (collectively "the Children"), appeals the order entered on September 25, 2012. That order denied Maternal Aunt's petition to intervene in the Children's dependency proceedings after the trial court found that she lacked standing. We affirm.

A.J. (born in October 2009) first came to the attention of Philadelphia's Department of Human Services ("DHS") when DHS received a General Protective Services report on November 29, 2009. The report alleged that Retired Senior Judge assigned to the Superior Court. 1 We consolidated these appeals, sua sponte, on December 3, 2012. A.J.'s mother, S.H. ("Mother"), was overwhelmed by the burden of caring for him. The report also noted that Mother had evicted A.J.'s father, G.D.J. ("Father"), from the home because he failed to provide support for A.J. According to the report, Mother had three other children who were not in her care. Both Mother and Father were uncooperative with DHS during its investigation, refusing to provide their real names or information regarding A.J. and her siblings. DHS placed A.J. in foster care after it obtained an order for protective custody on November 29, 2009.

Mother gave birth to S.H.J. prematurely in October 2010. Mother and Father agreed to accept In-Home Protective Services ("IHPS") from DHS, an invervention recommended after caseworkers visited Mother at the hospital. When DHS conducted a home visit with Mother at her mother's residence on February 18, 2011, Mother told the caseworker that S.H.J. was not there and that Father was caring for her. Mother and Father refused to make S.H.J. available for a DHS safety assessment and were otherwise uncooperative with DHS and IHPS. As a result, DHS filed a dependency petition. The trial court adjudicated S.H.J. dependent and committed her to DHS on March 31, 2011. On July 18, 2011, the trial court granted DHS' petitions for involuntary termination of parental rights as to both Mother and Father.

Maternal Aunt, appellant here, served as the kinship foster parent for the Children from July 2011 to April 2012. In April 2012, DHS removed the Children from Maternal Aunt's care. On April 9, 2012, the trial court ordered that the Children were not to be returned to Maternal Aunt's home. The record before us is unclear as to why the removal occurred.

On August 24, 2012, Maternal Aunt filed a petition to intervene in the ongoing dependency proceedings. At a permanency review hearing for the Children held on September 25, 2012, the trial court denied that petition. On October 24, 2012, Maternal Aunt filed her notice of appeal and concise statement of errors complained of on appeal, pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2).

Maternal Aunt presents the following question for our review:
1. Did [the trial court] err in not granting standing to [Maternal Aunt] and denying her Petition to Intervene in the dependency/adoption proceedings in that [Maternal Aunt] was the maternal aunt, had custody previously for a substantial period of time of the [Children] as a kinship foster parent, stands in loco parentis to the [C]hildren, was classified as pre-adoptive to the [C]hildren, D.H.S. supported her position and it was in the best interest of the [C]hildren to allow [Maternal Aunt] to have standing and to intervene? Did [the trial court] err in stating and finding that issues of pre-adoption status were waived?

Maternal Aunt's Brief at 4.

An issue regarding standing to participate in dependency proceedings is a question of law. We apply a plenary scope of review, and our standard of review is de novo. In re G.D., 61 A.3d 1031, 1036 (Pa.Super. 2013) (citations omitted).

We begin our analysis by noting that, in her brief, Maternal Aunt refers incorrectly to the underlying action as "the dependency/adoption proceedings of these two [C]hildren." Maternal Aunt's Brief at 10.[2] A review of the record reveals that no petition for adoption has been filed in this case and that the proceedings in the juvenile court were pursuant to the Juvenile Act, 42 ...

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