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[U] In re A.L.B.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 28, 2014

IN RE: A.L.B., A MINOR CHILD, D.M.B., A MINOR CHILD, APPEAL OF: A.W., MOTHER, Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order Dated July 11, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County Civil Division at No(s): 2013 AD 21 & 2013 AD 21A.

BEFORE: BOWES, ALLEN, and MUSMANNO, JJ.

MEMORANDUM

BOWES, J.

A.W. ("Mother") appeals from the order dated July 11, 2013, in the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County, involuntarily terminating her parental rights to her female child, A.L.B., born in June of 2010, and her male child, D.M.B., born in January of 2012.[1] We affirm.

On May 7, 2013, Blair County Children, Youth & Families ("CYF") filed a petition for the involuntary termination of the parental rights of Mother and T.B. ("Father") to A.L.B. pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(2), (8), and (b). On the same date, CYF filed a petition for the involuntary termination of the parental rights of Mother and Father to D.M.B. pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(2) and (b).

On July 9, 2013, the trial court held a combined permanency review and termination hearing.[2] At the hearing, counsel for CYF requested to amend the termination petition with respect to D.M.B. to include § 2511(a)(5), as well as § 2511(a)(2) and (b), and the court granted the request. In addition, counsel for CYF requested that the prior dependency proceedings be incorporated into the record for the termination proceeding, and the court granted the request. Further, CYF presented the testimony of Nikki Heidler, the current CYF caseworker, and C.C., the kinship foster mother of A.L.B. and D.M.B.[3] Mother testified on her own behalf, and she presented the testimony of L.L., her aunt, and Judy Brown, who had been the CYF caseworker involved with Mother at various times during her childhood. Father, although present and represented by counsel during the hearing, did not testify or present any witnesses.

The record reveals the pertinent facts and procedural history as follows.[4] CYF became involved with this family shortly after A.L.B.'s birth due to Mother's marijuana use and domestic violence between her and Father. At that time Mother was fifteen years old, and Father was eighteen years old. In February of 2011, CYF received a report that Mother was involved with Juvenile Probation due to her marijuana use. CYF filed a dependency petition with respect to Mother and placed her in foster care together with A.L.B., although CYF did not file a dependency petition concerning A.L.B. at that time. The court adjudicated Mother dependent on April 27, 2011. On April 28, 2011, Mother ran away from the foster home and took A.L.B. with her. Shortly after being located, Mother signed a voluntary placement agreement, and A.L.B. was placed in a foster home separate from Mother.

On May 4, 2011, CYF filed a dependency petition with respect to A.L.B. By order dated May 24, 2011, the court adjudicated A.L.B. dependent, and established a permanency goal of return home to Mother in foster care with a concurrent goal of adoption. Following a permanency review hearing on October 17, 2011, the trial court found, by order dated October 19, 2011, that Mother and A.L.B. had been placed together in a kinship foster care home in August of 2011, but that Mother ran away, leaving A.L.B. with the foster parents. Mother was located and placed in Pyramid Healthcare's Winterhaven Lodge, wherein she received services including independent living skills. The court found that Mother participated in supervised visitation with A.L.B. twice per week, and the visits went well. The court recommended that Mother participate in a mental health evaluation, continue with drug and alcohol services, and participate in services through Independent Living. Finally, the court found that Mother had pending criminal charges related to drug paraphernalia and shoplifting.

The next permanency review hearing was held on March 20, 2012. At this time, Mother's son, D.M.B., was nearly two months old. By order dated March 23, 2012, the trial court found that Mother was in substantial compliance with her permanency plan. Specifically, the court found that D.M.B. was in Mother's care in a foster home, and she was rendering appropriate care to him. Further, Mother was participating in the Independent Living Program, in drug and alcohol services, had appropriate visits with A.L.B., and the court found that CYF planned to expand the visits to include overnights. In addition, the court found that Mother was doing well in a cyber-school program and scheduled to graduate the following year. Likewise, by permanency review order dated July 2, 2012, the court found that Mother was in substantial compliance with her permanency plan.

By permanency review order dated September 21, 2012, the trial court found that Mother was in moderate compliance with the permanency plan. The court found that Mother was engaged in services including reunification, independent living, individual counseling, and that she was attending high school and on schedule to graduate in 2013.

However, on November 15, 2012, CYF filed a dependency petition with respect to D.M.B. CYF averred that, upon his birth in January of 2012, D.M.B. was discharged to Mother's care in a foster home. On September 20, 2012, A.L.B. was transferred to the same foster home as Mother and D.M.B. Approximately one month later, CYF learned that Mother was failing three high school classes, was found smoking on school property, and had threatened a student. In addition, Mother was equivocal on her decision regarding whether to stay in the care of CYF until graduation from high school.[5]

The trial court adjudicated D.M.B. dependent on January 10, 2013. By disposition order dated February 4, 2013, the trial court established D.M.B.'s permanency goal as adoption. The court found in its adjudication order that, on November 24, 2012, Mother ran away from the foster home where she resided with A.L.B. and D.M.B., and she was not located until December 28, 2012. The court found that Mother was taken to a Cambria County shelter home, where she consistently stated she did not want to remain in placement beyond her eighteenth birthday, i.e., February of 2013. In addition, while in the shelter home, Mother was found in possession of a small amount of marijuana.

By a separate permanency review order dated February 4, 2013, the court changed A.L.B.'s goal to adoption. The court found Mother in minimal compliance with her permanency plan in that she failed to fully invest herself in independent living services, and in individual counseling. Thereafter, effective February 15, 2013, A.L.B. and D.M.B. were transferred to kinship foster care.

Following a permanency review hearing on March 12, 2013, the trial court found that Mother minimally complied with the permanency plan. The court found as follows:

[M]other still has not established stable housing, employment or structure in her life. On the date of the hearing, she was picked up on a bench warrant issued by a local magisterial district judge due to her failure to appear for an underage drinking citation. She was charged with possession of marijuana in Cambria County and adjudicated guilty through the juvenile system. The case has been referred to Blair County for disposition. She also has a retail theft pending. [M]other was found to be in possession of marijuana in the . . . foster home but no charges were filed. She had absconded from the . . . foster home from 11/24 to 12/28/12. She is currently not enrolled in school but indicated that she would like to obtain her GED. She lacks transportation as well. She has had regular contact with the Agency regarding the children, and desires regular visits although the court has only directed that a closure visit be scheduled for her. She further testified that she is to obtain her own apartment at Evergreen Manor in the near future, although no lease agreement has yet been signed. She is looking for employment.

Order, 3/19/13, at 1-2.

Finally, the combined permanency and termination hearing, described above, was held on July 9, 2013. By order dated July 11, 2013, the trial court involuntarily terminated Mother's parental rights. Mother filed a timely notice of appeal and a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i) and (b).

On appeal, Mother presents the following issues for our review:

I. Whether [CYF] failed to meet its burden through clear and convincing evidence that the parental rights of [Mother] to her minor children, A.L.B. and D.M.B., should be terminated pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(2), (5) and (8)[?]
II. Whether [CYF] failed to meet its burden through clear and convincing evidence that termination of parental rights of [Mother] to her minor children, A.L.B. and D.M.B., would best serve the minor children's ...

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