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Adoption of C.J.P.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

April 15, 2015


Submitted, January 12, 2015

Page 1047

Appeal from the Decree of the Court of Common Pleas, Delaware County, entered July 22, 2014, Orphans' Court Division, No: 0036-2013. Before NICHOLS, J.

Karen E. Friel, Drexel Hill, for appellant.

Joseph V. Catania, Media, for appellee.

Anne-Marie Murphy, Woodlyn, for Delaware County Children and Youth Services, participating party.



Page 1048


J.B.P. (Mother) appeals from the decree entered July 22, 2014, in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, which involuntarily terminated her parental rights to her minor son, C.J.P. (Child), born in May of 2011. We affirm.[1]

On July 19, 2011, protective custody of Child was awarded to Children and Youth Services of Delaware County (CYS), as a result of Mother's homelessness and mental instability. Child has remained in foster care since that time. On April 9, 2013, CYS filed a petition to involuntarily terminate Mother's parental rights to Child, and a termination hearing was held on July 18, 2014.

At the beginning of the termination hearing, Mother's court-appointed trial counsel stipulated to the admission of CYS Exhibit 1 into evidence. N.T., 7/18/14, at 4-5. CYS Exhibit 1 consisted of, inter alia, a court summary prepared by CYS, therapy progress notes, a series of mental health evaluations, various parenting and visitation progress reports, and a number of documents related to a criminal charge against Mother.[2] Additionally, Mother's counsel stipulated that the evidence presented at Mother's June 12, 2013 goal change hearing would be incorporated by reference.[3] Id. at 4-5. CYS did not present any live testimony at the July 18, 2014 hearing. Mother testified on her own behalf, and neither counsel for CYS nor Child's guardian ad litem cross-examined Mother.

Page 1049

On July 22, 2014, the orphans' court entered its decree involuntarily terminating Mother's parental rights to Child. On July 29, 2014, Mother's trial counsel filed a petition to withdraw his representation. By order entered August 5, 2014, the court vacated the appointment of Mother's trial counsel and appointed Mother's current counsel. Mother timely filed a notice of appeal on August 15, 2014. However, Mother did not concomitantly file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal, as required by Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i). On September 25, 2014, this Court ordered Mother to file a concise statement by October 6, 2014. Mother complied by filing a concise statement with the orphans' court on that date.[4]

Mother now raises the following issues for our review.

I. The [orphans' c]ourt erred in ordering termination of parental rights of [M]other there being the lack of clear and convincing evidence to support the [orphans' c]ourt's conclusion thereof.
II. CYS failed to extend reasonable good faith services to [M]other to promote family stability and preserve family unity to warrant termination of parental rights.
III. [Mother] challenges the constitutionality and fairness of 23 Pa.C.S.A. [§ ] 2511(b) in violation of the equal protection clause and due process clauses of the United States and Pa. Constitution.

Mother's Brief at 5.

We consider Mother's claims mindful of our well-settled standard of review.

The standard of review in termination of parental rights cases requires appellate courts to accept the findings of fact and credibility determinations of the trial court if they are supported by the record. If the factual findings are supported, appellate courts review to determine if the trial court made an error of law or abused its discretion. A decision may be reversed for an abuse of discretion only upon demonstration of manifest unreasonableness, partiality, prejudice, bias, or ill-will. The trial court's decision, however, should not be reversed merely because the record would support a different result. We have previously emphasized our deference to trial courts that often have first-hand observations of the parties spanning multiple hearings.

In re T.S.M., 620 Pa. 602, 71 A.3d 251, 267 (Pa. 2013) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

Termination of parental rights is governed by Section 2511 of the Adoption Act, 23 Pa.C.S.A. § § 2101-2938, which requires a bifurcated analysis.

Initially, the focus is on the conduct of the parent. The party seeking termination must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the parent's conduct satisfies the statutory grounds for termination delineated in Section 2511(a). Only if the court determines that the parent's conduct warrants termination of his or her parental rights does the ...

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