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[U] In re L.B.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

December 19, 2013

IN RE: L.B. APPEAL OF: L.B., a Minor IN RE: L.B. APPEAL OF: L.B., a Minor IN RE: T.B. APPEAL OF: T.B., a Minor IN RE: T.B. APPEAL OF: T.B., a Minor


Appeal from the Order entered February 25, 2013, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Family Court at No(s): CP-51-AP-0000425-2012, CP-51-DP-0000013-2011, FID-51-FN-379078-2009, CP-51-AP-0000424-2012, CP-51-DP-0000012-2011, FID-51-FN-379078-2009, CP-51-AP-0000426-2012, CP-51-DP-0000014-2011, FID-51-FN-379078-2009, CP-51-AP-0000427-2012, CP-51-DP-0000015-2011, FID-51-FN-379078-2009.




L.B.-1, (a female born in June of 2007); L.B.-2, (a male born in July of 2008); T.B.-1, (a male who is L.B.-2's twin); and T.B.-2 (a female born in September of 2010) (collectively, "the Children"), appeal from the Orders denying, without prejudice, the Petitions filed by the Philadelphia Department of Human Services ("DHS") seeking to involuntarily terminate the parental rights of the Children's parents, T.H. ("Mother), and L.B. ("Father"), to the Children, pursuant to section 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), (8), and (b) of the Adoption Act, 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), (8), and (b), and change the permanency goal for the Children to adoption, pursuant to section 6351 of the Juvenile Act, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6351.[1] We affirm.

The Children were adjudicated dependent on January 13, 2011, and were committed to the custody of DHS on that date. N.T., 12/3/12, at 7-8. On August 24, 2012, DHS filed Petitions seeking to involuntarily terminate Mother's and Father's parental rights to the Children, and to change their permanency goal to adoption. The trial court held hearings on the termination/goal change Petitions on December 3, 2012, February 12, 2013 and February 25, 2013. DHS first presented the testimony of Tanisha Richardson ("Richardson"), who was the DHS caseworker assigned to the family in April of 2010, when the family was having housing issues. Id. at 15-16. Richardson testified that the Children had been placed in foster care through a provider agency, Devereaux, on January 4, 2011, and remained in foster care. N.T., 2/12/13, at 6.

DHS created a Family Service Plan ("FSP"), dated February 3, 2011, for the family. Id. at 7-9; DHS Ex. 1. The FSP objectives for Mother were 1) to participate in parenting education; 2) to stabilize her mental health; 3) to stabilize her physical health; 4) to maintain contact and visitation with the Children; 5) to assure the safety of the Children; and 6) to have a better relationship with the Children through therapy. Id. at 15-16. Richardson referred Mother to providers to assist Mother in achieving her objectives. Id. at 16-17.

Father's FSP goals were the same as Mother's goals, with an additional goal of maintaining stabilization with drug and alcohol concerns because, at the hearing on January 13, 2011, he admitted to using marijuana. Id. at 17-18. Father also had an added goal of acquiring and/or maintaining appropriate housing for the Children. Id. at 18. The permanency goal for the family was reunification. Id. at 19.

After several changes to the FSP, on May 24, 2012, DHS prepared a fifth FSP. Id. at 28, 40-41; DHS Ex. 6. The stated permanency goal for the Children was adoption. N.T., 2/12/13, at 42. Richardson stated that Mother's FSP goals were to stabilize her mental and physical health, and to be compliant with visitation. Id. Richardson explained that Mother had attended follow-ups on her neurological issue. Id.

Richardson testified that Father's goals were to stabilize his mental health, to complete parenting education, to address housing issues, and to be compliant with visitation. Id. Richardson stated Father was compliant with his housing and visitation goals, but was not compliant with his mental health and parenting goals. Id. at 42-43.

Richardson testified that the parents' visitation has always been supervised. Id. at 43-44. Richardson stated that Mother's visits were not changed to unsupervised, because Mother required prompting in caring for the Children. Id. at 44.

On cross-examination by Mother's counsel, Richardson testified that, for the period between May of 2012 and the filing of the petition, Mother was fully compliant by visiting the Children, but she needed help in interacting with the Children from Father or a caseworker. Id. at 63. Richardson also testified that Mother was compliant with her parenting class goal. Id. at 65. Richardson was not certain whether Mother was compliant with her goal to stabilize her physical health, because Mother had a neurological exam, but Richardson was not aware of any follow-up. Id. at 65-66. Richardson testified that Mother had gone to a mental health therapist, but the therapist at Northeast Mental Health Center told Richardson that Mother did not follow the recommendations, and Mother missed more sessions than she attended. Id. at 67-68. Richardson testified that Mother was non-compliant with her goal to stabilize mental health because of her failure to attend individual therapy and family therapy on a weekly basis. Id.

Richardson stated that Mother had made progress in her goal of learning age appropriate behavior for the Children, and might be compliant with that objective. Id. at 68-70. Richardson testified that Mother was not compliant with her mental health and parenting objectives. Id. at 71.

Richardson indicated that she specified to Mother that Mother needed to complete additional parenting courses at Family School, which are more intense than the parenting courses at the Achieving Reunification Center ("ARC"), but Mother refused. Id. at 71. Richardson conceded that Mother loves the Children, and that a bond exists between her and the Children. Id. at 70-72.

On cross-examination by Father's counsel, Richardson conceded that, in the Dependency Review Order ("DRO") dated December 15, 2012, the trial court no longer recommended that Father have drug and alcohol treatment, and that, in the May 24, 2012 FSP, there was no drug and alcohol treatment objective for him. Id. at 73-78. Richardson stated that Father completed a parenting class in February 2012, satisfying his FSP parenting class objective. Id. at 76. After February of 2012, Richardson did not refer Father to additional parenting classes. Id. at 78-80. Richardson conceded that, ...

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