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In re C.R.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 19, 2015

IN THE INTEREST OF: C.R., a Minor. APPEAL OF: M.J.R

Argued June 24, 2014.

Appeal from the Order entered January 2, 2014, in the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Criminal Division, at No(s): CP-22-DP-0000146-2010 and CP-22-DP-0000144-2010. Before CHERRY, J.

Craig E. Kauzlarich, Carlisle, for appellant.

Marisa K. McClellan, Harrisburg, for Dauphin County Children and Youth Services, appellee.

Joy M. Waters, Oberlin, for Guardian Ad Litem, appellee.

BEFORE: LAZARUS, WECHT and MUSMANNO, JJ.

OPINION

Page 180

MUSMANNO, J.:

M.J.R. (" Foster Mother" ), the former foster mother of the two subject minor, female children, C.R. (born in September 2006), and D.R. (born in February 2008) (collectively, " the Children" ), appeals from the Orders entered on January 2, 2014, dismissing her Motions for a permanency review hearing to determine placement under section 6351 of the Juvenile Act,[1] with regard to the Children, who were adjudicated dependent under section 6302 of the Juvenile Act.[2] The Dauphin County Social Services for Children & Youth (" DCSS for C & Y" or the " Agency" ) has filed a Motion to Quash the appeal, claiming that Foster Mother lacks standing. We agree, and quash the appeals for lack of standing.

We note the following relevant facts. On October 1, 2010, the Children were placed in the home of Foster Mother and M.R., her husband, as foster parents. The Children were adjudicated dependent on October 14, 2010, and their biological mother voluntarily relinquished her parental rights on April 5, 2012.

In July 2012, several indecent assault charges were brought against the Children's foster father, M.R. The trial court terminated the parental rights of the Children's biological parents on August 30, 2012. Thereafter, in November 2012, a safety plan with provisions for the Children was put into effect by Orders entered on November 2, 2012, signed by Dauphin County President Judge Todd A. Hoover. The November 2, 2012 Orders, denying the Agency's Motion for placement, each provided as follows:

ORDER -- Based upon the above findings, IT IS ORDERED THAT:

Physical custody of the subject minor child shall remain at the foster home of [Foster Mother].

Placement of the subject minor child shall not be modified and shall remain at the current foster home. The child's placement is the least restrictive placement that meets the needs of

Page 181

the child and there is no less restrictive alternative available.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT:

. . . the safety plan in place concerning the subject minor child must be adhered to. IF the safety plan is violated, the child shall be immediately removed from the foster home.

Such disposition having been determined to be best suited to the protection and physical, mental and moral welfare of the child.

Orders (Modification of Child's Placement), 11/2/12.

Thus, under the November 2, 2012 Orders and the safety plan, the Children remained in Foster Mother's home, with supervisory measures implemented for M.R. Under the safety plan, (1) M.R. was not permitted to sleep in the home; (2) M.R. was not to have any unsupervised contact with the Children; and (3) M.R. was not to have any contact with the Children, in the home or otherwise, without a third person being present.

On June 13, 2013, M.R. entered a guilty plea. On June 20, 2013, the guardian ad litem for the Children, Joy Fleming, Esquire (" Attorney Fleming" ), filed a Motion for Modification of the Children's placement, requesting their immediate removal from the home for their safety. On June 20, 2013, the Agency removed the Children, and placed them in the foster home of C.H. and B.H. On June 21, 2013, the Agency filed a Response to the Motion for Modification of the Children's placement. On June 24, 2013, the trial court entered an Order directing the parties to appear for a conference on July 8, 2013. Foster Mother was not served with notice of either the Motion for Modification or the Response of the Agency, nor was she served with notice of the trial court's Order. Although the Children were removed from her home, Foster Mother did not seek to be heard on the removal, or to intervene in further dependency proceedings.

On September 24, 2013, M.R. was sentenced to serve two consecutive terms of twenty-four months of probation, and was placed on the Megan's Law Offender list for the next fifteen years. On September 24, 2013 and December 3, 2013, a Juvenile Court Master held permanency review hearings, and determined that the Children should continue in placement with their then current foster parents. By Orders entered on September 25, 2013, and December 4, 2013, The Honorable John F. Cherry adopted the Master's recommendations.

On December 18, 2013, Foster Mother filed Motions for permanency review hearings to determine the Children's placement. In her Motions, Foster Mother asserted that she does not pose a safety threat to the Children, and that they were improperly removed from her home on June 20, 2013, without notice or an opportunity for her to be heard on the necessity of removal. As such, Foster Mother claimed that the removal violated section 6336.1(a) of the Juvenile Act, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6336.1(a), which requires that a foster parent be timely provided notice of hearings and an opportunity to be heard. Foster Mother also claimed that the removal violated Rules 1604 and 1606 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Juvenile Court Procedure (" Pa.R.J.C.P." ), regarding submission of a report concerning the foster child by a foster parent, and the modification of a dependent child's placement, respectively. According to Foster Mother, the actions subsequent to the removal of the Children from her home were presented to a Juvenile Master, as opposed to the trial court judge, Judge Hoover. She argued that the presentation to a Juvenile Master was in violation of an implicit direction in the

Page 182

trial court's November 2, 2012 Order, which provided that any removal action without a violation of the safety plan was to occur only before Judge Hoover, and not before a Master. ...


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