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[U] In re Adoption of J.Q.R.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 18, 2014

IN RE: ADOPTION OF J.Q.R.
v.
APPEAL OF: C. V., MOTHER IN THE INTEREST OF: J.Q.R. APPEAL OF: C. V., MOTHER

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Decree September 20, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of York County Orphans' Court at No(s): 2013-0027

Appeal from the Order Dated September 16, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of York County Juvenile Division at No(s): CP-67-DP-0000006-2011

BEFORE: MUNDY, J., WECHT, J., and FITZGERALD, J. [*]

MEMORANDUM

MUNDY, J.

Appellant, C.V. (Mother), appeals from the September 16 and 20, 2013 order and decree involuntarily terminating her parental rights to her biological son, J.Q.R., and changing his permanency goal from reunification to adoption.[1] After careful review, we affirm.

We summarize the relevant facts and procedural history of this case as follows. Mother and Father are the natural parents of J.Q.R., born in August 2008. Stipulation, 5/14/13, at 1. The York County Office of Children, Youth & Families (CYF) received a referral regarding J.Q.R. on January 14, 2011, when J.Q.R. was found unsupervised within the City of York. Id. At that time, J.Q.R. was 29 months old. Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 3. When Mother arrived at the scene, she appeared intoxicated and did not cooperate with police. Id.; Stipulation, 5/14/13, at 2. Police took 24-hour protective custody of J.Q.R. Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 3. Upon speaking with a CYF caseworker, Mother confirmed that she had no residence. However, Mother stated that she and J.Q.R. could reside with Maternal Aunt. CYF contacted Maternal Aunt, who agreed to care for J.Q.R.

On January 20, 2011, Maternal Aunt contacted CYF and advised the agency that she could no longer care for J.Q.R., as she was caring for her own daughter at the time. See N.T., 7/12/13, at 60. Following CYF's discussion with Maternal Aunt, the agency petitioned for emergency custody of J.Q.R.[2] Trial Court Order, 9/16/13, at 3. On January 21, 2011, the trial court granted CYF's petition and awarded CYF temporary legal and physical custody of J.Q.R.

Following a continuance request, the trial court held a protective custody hearing on January 31, 2011. Mother, Father, and Maternal Aunt attended. Upon her arrival, Mother appeared to be intoxicated, but she refused to take a drug and alcohol test. Mother also refused to provide a residential address to the trial court. Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 3. Following the hearing, the trial court ordered temporary legal and physical custody of J.Q.R. to remain with CYF until Maternal Aunt could arrange for appropriate daycare for J.Q.R. Once these arrangements were in place, physical custody would transfer to Maternal Aunt.[3]

On February 1, 2011, CYF filed a dependency petition, alleging that J.Q.R. was without proper care or control. Upon agreement of the parties, the trial court adjudicated J.Q.R. dependent on February 10, 2011. Stipulation, 5/14/13, at 2. At that time, the permanency goal of reunification was established. Id. The trial court also noted, "CYF has had great difficulty keeping in contact with Mother. Mother is not a resource; she has no housing and there are substance abuse issues." Trial Court Order, 2/10/11, at 1.

The trial court held a 90-day status conference on May 25, 2011. CYF explained that visits had been scheduled for Mother three times per week but Mother had not visited J.Q.R. since April 29, 2011. Id. at 4-5. The trial court subsequently reduced Mother's visits to once a week until she could demonstrate consistency with her visitation. Id. at 5.

On June 28, 2011, the trial court held a permanency review hearing. At that time, Mother was visiting J.Q.R. on a weekly basis. However, Mother tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) two of the four times she was offered a drug test; the remaining two times, Mother refused to submit to the drug test. See Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 5. The trial court found that Mother had minimally complied with the permanency plan and had made minimal efforts towards alleviating the circumstances necessitating J.Q.R.'s original placement. Stipulation, 5/14/13, at 3.

A permanency review hearing was held on December 6, 2011. Mother failed to appear despite receiving proper notice. CYF reported that Mother was regularly attending her visits with J.Q.R. and was considering entering a rehabilitation facility for her alcohol and drug use. At that time, Mother was residing with friends. Again, the trial court found that Mother had minimally complied with the permanency plan and had made minimal efforts towards alleviating the circumstances necessitating placement. Stipulation, 5/14/13, at 3.

A 90-day status hearing was held on March 6, 2012. Since the last review hearing, Mother had relapsed, entered a rehabilitation facility, and left the facility against medical advice. At the time of the hearing, Mother was residing in a shelter and was not attending therapy or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings. Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 8.

On May 16, 2012, the trial court held a six-month review hearing. Mother did not attend. N.T., 5/16/12, at 23. At that time, J.Q.R. had been in placement for approximately 16 months. Id. at 23. J.Q.R. was doing relatively well, but he had issues with aggression and frustration. He was enrolled in weekly art, play, and speech therapy and attended a specialized preschool. He had been successfully toilet trained, an area where he struggled. CYF intended to seek an evaluation of J.Q.R. for wraparound services. Id. at 2, 24.

As of that date, Mother's last visit with J.Q.R. was on April 18, 2012. Id. at 27. Although Mother had not seen J.Q.R. for approximately one month, CYF confirmed that Mother and J.Q.R. were bonded. Id. At that time, Mother was transient and unemployed. Id. at 28. Mother was not attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), NA, or taking her mental health medication; Mother was testing positive for drug use, to wit benzodiazepines, cocaine, and marijuana. Id. at 27-28; Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 8. The trial court found that Mother had not complied with the permanency plan and that she had made no efforts towards alleviating the circumstances necessitating placement. Stipulation, 5/14/13, at 4.

The trial court held a 90-day status hearing on August 16, 2012. Mother ceased her visitations with J.Q.R. three weeks prior to the hearing. Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 10. CYF notified the trial court of its intent to petition to change J.Q.R.'s concurrent placement plan to adoption.

Following a permanency review hearing on November 15, 2012, the trial court changed J.Q.R.'s concurrent placement plan from placement with a fit and willing relative to adoption. In the six-month period preceding this date, Mother had attended only eight visits with J.Q.R. The trial court believed that Mother was not addressing her housing, employment, and mental health needs. Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 10. The trial court found that Mother had not complied with the permanency plan and that she had made no efforts towards alleviating the circumstances necessitating placement. Stipulation, 5/14/13, at 4. CYF alerted the trial court of its intent to file a petition to involuntarily terminate Mother's parental rights. Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 10.

On February 14, 2013, a 90-day status hearing was held. At that time, Mother's whereabouts were unknown and her last visit with J.Q.R. was on October 31, 2012. Id. at 11.

On March 5, 2013, CYF petitioned to change J.Q.R.'s permanency goal from reunification with a parent to termination of parental rights and placement for adoption. Contemporaneously with that petition, CYF filed a petition to terminate Mother and Father's parental rights pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), (8), and (b).

The trial court held a six-month review hearing on April 17, 2013.[4]Mother failed to appear. N.T., 4/17/13, at 18. At that time, J.Q.R. was still enrolled in specialized preschool and was receiving mobile, occupational, play, and speech therapy. Id. at 19. A Therapeutic Staff Support (TSS) worker was assigned to J.Q.R. for six hours a week. J.Q.R.'s behavior at school had improved over the past four to five months.[5] Id. CYF was in the process of obtaining a second opinion autism screening for J.Q.R. as there was conflict as to whether he fell within the autism spectrum. Id. at 27.

At that time, Mother's last visit with J.Q.R. occurred on October 31, 2012. Mother last contacted CYF on April 15, 2013. On that date, Mother refused to give CYF her residential address. During that conversation, Amanda Holtzapple, the family's caseworker, informed Mother of a number of outstanding bench warrants for her arrest. Id. at 24-25. Also, Mother's insurance had lapsed so she was not receiving her mental health medication. Id. at 25. Accordingly, the trial court held that Mother had not complied with the permanency plan and that she had made no efforts towards alleviating the circumstances necessitating placement. Stipulation, 5/14/13, at 5.

Subsequently, the trial court scheduled a hearing on CYF's goal change and termination petitions for May 17, 2013. CYF properly served Father with notice. However, on May 9, 2013, CYF requested a continuance of the hearing because it was unable to locate Mother to serve her with notice. The trial court denied this request, in part, insisting that the hearing would proceed as to Father. On May 17, 2013, the trial court took testimony regarding the termination of Father's parental rights. See N.T., 5/17/13. As Mother was not present, the trial court continued the hearing to July 12, 2013, to be held in conjunction with another 90-day status hearing. Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 13.

Proper notice of the July 12, 2013 hearing was effectuated on Mother by publication. Despite this notice, Mother did not appear.[6] Id. at 2. On that date, Holtzapple testified regarding the tortured history of this case. We summarize her testimony as follows.

The trial court adjudicated J.Q.R. dependent on February 10, 2012. Since that date, J.Q.R. has been in placement with the same foster parents. Alternatively, Mother has not resided in one residence for a continuous six-month period since the placement. N.T., 7/12/13, at 20. To wit, Mother moved approximately 17 times within this two and one half year period. Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 20. Not only was Mother transient, she typically did not advise CYF of her current address. N.T., 7/12/13, at 21. CYF last knew of Mother's whereabouts in late-February 2013. Id. at 6. Since April 2013, Mother called Holtzapple on four occasions to discuss the goal change and termination hearing. Id. at 10-14. However, Mother did not provide Holtzapple with a residential address. Holtzapple last spoke with Mother on July 11, 2013. Id.

Since the adjudication, Mother was incarcerated from September 26 to October 23, 2012, for giving a false identification to a law enforcement official. N.T., 7/12/13, at 16.; Trial Court Opinion, 9/16/13, at 10. Additionally, Holtzapple knew of four outstanding bench warrants for Mother's arrest.[7] N.T., 7/12/13, at 14-15. Mother also attended three rehabilitation facilities since J.Q.R.'s adjudication: White Deer Run from June 13 through July 7, 2011; Bowling Green Brandywine from July 28 through September 7, 2011; and White Deer Run Cove Forge from January 9 through February 13, 2012. Mother successfully completed all three of these programs. Id. at 16-17.

Mother advised CYF of two jobs that she maintained since the adjudication. Id. Mother worked at Arm & Hammer from September 7 through September 22, 2011, and Wendy's from October through November 2011. Id. CYS received allegations that Mother lost her job at Arm & Hammer due to suspected drug use. Regarding other sources of income, CYF did not believe that Mother was receiving any type of disability payments. Id. at 22.

Six family service plans (FSPs) were put into place throughout J.Q.R.'s dependency. Id. at 15-16; Stipulation, 5/14/13, at 2. Mother never objected to any of the goals set forth in these FSPs. Id. Additional services deployed by CYF for Mother's benefit included: "[a] Catholic Charities in-home team, a Justice Works in-home team, a Pressley Ridge in-home team, drug and alcohol ...


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