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[U] In re Adoption of S.T.G.S.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

January 24, 2014

IN RE: ADOPTION OF: S.T.G.S. APPEAL OF: C.S. IN RE: ADOPTION OF: C.N.G.S. APPEAL OF: C.S.

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order Entered June 6, 2013, In the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Orphans' Court Division, at No. 2012-A0216.

Appeal from the Order Entered June 6, 2013, In the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Orphans' Court Division, at No. 2012-A0215.

BEFORE: GANTMAN, SHOGAN and MUSMANNO, JJ.

MEMORANDUM

SHOGAN, J.

C.S. ("Father") appeals from the orders entered June 6, 2013, granting the petitions filed by the Montgomery County Office of Children and Youth ("OCY") involuntarily terminating his parental rights to his then fifteen-year-old son, C.N.G.S., born in March 1998, and his fourteen-year-old daughter, S.T.G.S., born in July 1999 (collectively "the Children"), pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(1) and (b).[1] We affirm.

OCY's involvement began in 2011 when it obtained custody of the Children and placed them into a foster home on April 7, 2011; S.T.G.S. was eleven years old and C.N.G.S. was thirteen years of age. N.T., 5/8/13, at 15, 84). That foster home remains the current placement for the Children. Id. at 15. For two years prior to OCY involvement, the Children had been residing with a maternal aunt and uncle through placement by the Philadelphia Department of Human Services. Id. at 15, 86–87. In April 2011, when the aunt filed a PFA petition against uncle, and he left the marital home, OCY was contacted that the aunt could no longer care for the Children. Id. at 15, 84. At that time, Father's whereabouts were unknown, but he was subsequently located in a Philadelphia homeless shelter in May 2011. Id. at 20, 87.

OCY developed several family service plans in order to assist Father's reunification with the Children. N.T., 5/8/13, at 15. The plan required Father to obtain and maintain a residence that would be suitable for the Children and to provide documentation that he was financially able to meet the Children's needs. Father also was required to submit to drug testing and provide documentation explaining his prognosis and diagnosis regarding his health issues. The plan also provided that Father engage in family counseling with the Children. Finally, Father was to maintain a healthy relationship with the Children while they were in placement and cooperate with OCY. N.T., 5/8/13, at 21–22.

On December 17, 2012, OCY filed petitions seeking the involuntary termination of Father's parental rights to the Children. Citing In re B.L.L., 787 A.2d 1007 (Pa.Super. 2001), the orphans' court ordered on March 1, 2013, that the Children need not testify at the termination hearing and quashed all subpoenas requiring their appearance. Thereafter, on March 4, 2013, Father filed a motion in limine and a motion to permit the Children to testify at the termination hearing, stating that the Children had previously testified at the permanency review hearing on September 5, 2012, before Master Stephen P. Imms, Jr. Father also sought admission into evidence of the notes of testimony from the September 5, 2012 hearing.

The orphans' court ordered on March 8, 2013, that the Children would be permitted to testify in camera in the presence of counsel and on the record, with questions to be posed by the court. The parties were not permitted to be present. The orphans' court directed the parties' counsel to submit questions for the orphans' court's review.

The orphans' court held an in camera interview with the Children on April 10, 2013, at which the orphans' court asked the Children questions that counsel had previously submitted. N.T., 4/10/13, at 3. Subsequently, the orphans' court held a hearing on May 8, 2013, at which OCY presented the testimony of Melinda Shelton, the assigned caseworker for the family; Angela Krebsbach, the foster care case manager and adoption specialist for Friendship House; and Stephen Polonsky, an OCY adoption caseworker. Father testified on his own behalf. Mother, who had not been located, was not present. N.T. 5/8/13, at 9, 271. The orphans' court also admitted into evidence the notes of testimony from the September 5, 2012 permanency review hearing. Id. at 123–124. Further, the orphans' court stated that it was deferring its ruling regarding Father's parental rights to allow time to locate Mother and facilitate her participation in the proceedings. Id. at 272.

On June 6, 2013, the orphans' court granted the petition to involuntarily terminate Father's parental rights pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(1) and (b). On July 5, 2013, Father filed notices of appeal along with concise statements of errors complained of on appeal. We consolidated the appeals on July 29, 2013.

In his brief on appeal, Father raises three issues, as follows:

1. Whether the Evidence was sufficient to establish Termination of Appellant's Parental Rights as to 23 Pa.C.S. section 2511(a)(1); that Appellant had either Refused or Failed to Perform Parental Duties, or that he had evidenced a Settled Purpose of Relinquishing his Parental Claim.
2. Whether the Evidence was sufficient to establish that Termination of Parental Rights would best serve the Needs and Welfare of the Minor Children, under 23 Pa.C.S. section 2511(b).
3. Whether the Trial Court erred in denying Appellant's request to allow the Minor Children to provide "Full Testimony" to the Court; i.e., Testimony that would have been subject to the direct, and cross examination by the parties.

Father's Brief at 5 (verbatim).

We review the appeal in accordance with the ...

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