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[U] In re A.L.W.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 5, 2014

IN RE: A.L.W. APPEAL OF: MERCER COUNTY CHILDREN AND YOUTH SERVICES

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order entered May 28, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County Orphans' Court, at No(s): 48 DP 2011

BEFORE: PANELLA, OLSON, and WECHT, JJ.

MEMORANDUM

PANELLA, J.

Mercer County Children and Youth Services ("CYS") appeals the order entered on May 28, 2013, that denied its petition for change of placement goal to adoption with respect to A.L.W. We affirm.

CYS has had A.L.W., ("the child"), within its care, custody and control as a dependent child since August 5, 2011. The child has been in foster care since that time with a permanent placement goal of return to parent. S.M. ("Mother") has been involved through the dependency proceedings and is attempting to regain custody of the child. Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 1. Mother has lived in Detroit, Michigan, since July of 2012. A.W. ("Father"), who also lives in Detroit, Michigan, but not with Mother, has not been involved with CYS throughout the dependency of the child.

Mother signed a Family Service Plan ("FSP") on February 24, 2013. Her goals were: strengthening her parenting skills; addressing some low level mental health issues; locating and maintaining stable housing; insuring a drug-free environment; and maintaining contact with CYS. Id. at 1-2. On May 28, 2013, a dependency hearing was held. At the hearing, CYS recommended a permanency goal change from return to parent to adoption because the child had been in placement for 21 of the past 22 months, and CYS was not satisfied with Mother's compliance with the FSP goals. At the hearing, the trial court heard the testimony of Mother, Deborah Corban, the CYS caseworker, and Mother's landlord, Sterling A. Pace. Id. at 2. On May 28, 2013, the trial court entered an order, keeping the current placement goal of return to parent in place with a concurrent placement plan of adoption.

On June 7, 2013, CYS timely filed a notice of appeal. By order entered on June 12, 2013, the trial court ordered CYS to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i) and (b) within 21 days. CYS complied on June 25, 2013.

On appeal, CYS raises four issues as follows.

1. Did the Trial Court err and abuse its discretion in denying Appellant's request to change the goal in this case from reunification to adoption?
2. Did the Trial Court err and abuse its discretion in finding that the goal of reunification was appropriate and feasible?
3. Did the Trial Court err and abuse its discretion in finding that the goal of reunification was the best suited to the protection and [the] physical, physical, mental, and moral welfare of the Child?
4. Did the Trial Court err and abuse its discretion in finding that the natural mother's testimony was more credible that the caseworker's testimony as to her progress towards meeting the goals of the Family Service Plan?

CYS's Brief, at 8.

As CYS's issue are similar, we will address them concomitantly. We review CYS's issues regarding the change of goal to adoption according to the following standard:

In cases involving a court's order changing the placement goal . . . to adoption, our standard of review is abuse of discretion. To hold that the trial court abused its discretion, we must determine its judgment was manifestly unreasonable, that the court disregarded the law, or that its action was a result of partiality, prejudice, bias or ill will. While this Court is bound by the facts determined in the trial court, we are not tied to the court's inferences, deductions and conclusions; we have a responsibility to ensure that the record represents a ...

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