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In re L.E.A-M.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 16, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF: L.E.A-M., A MINOR APPEAL OF: J.A-M., UNCLE

         Appeal from the Order Entered May 26, 2016, in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, Juvenile Division, at No(s): CP-39-DP-0030-2016

          BEFORE: OLSON, RANSOM, and STRASSBURGER, [*] JJ.

          OPINION

          STRASSBURGER, J.

         J.A-M. (Maternal Uncle), appeals from the order entered May 26, 2016, in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, which denied his petition to declare L.E.A-M (Child) dependent. After careful review, we affirm.

         The juvenile court set forth the pertinent background as follows.

[C]hild was born [in June 1998], in El Salvador, and lived with his mother [in El Salvador] until 2015. His father resides about fifteen minutes' walk from his mother's house. [C]hild's mother works as a domestic, and his father works in agriculture. [C]hild had his own bedroom at his mother's house. He has good relationships with both his parents. [C]hild testified that "It was good" to live with his mother, and bad only because "she wasn't able to protect [him] from all the bad things."
On October 5, 2015, [Child] left his mother's home. He testified that he left El Salvador because "all the kids from 17 on, 17, 18, they want to recruit you for their gangs. And if you don't accept, they will kill you."
[C]hild was afraid of the gang efforts at recruitment. … [C]hild testified that his mother and father decided he should leave El Salvador. He then went on to describe the path he took to the United States, beginning with "when I left my mother gave me some money so I can- I can leave by bus and [ask] for rides until I get there." He traveled through El Salvador and surreptitiously crossed the border to Guatemala. "[In Guatemala, ] I looked for a bus that would say that it would get close to Mexico." [Child] then travel[ed] through Guatemala into Mexico. [Child] is unclear about the entry into Mexico. [Child] then swam into the United States. He was detained by federal authorities and released to [Maternal] Uncle in Allentown[. Child testified that] "my mother asked [Maternal Uncle] if he could- if he could take care of me here."[1] Neither his mother nor his father has visited [Child in the United States]. However, [C]hild talks to his father three times a week. [C]hild feels well cared for by [Maternal Uncle. Maternal Uncle] buys him clothing, food, provides him with his own room, and sends him to school. [Maternal Uncle] is a legal resident of the United States, and [Maternal Uncle's] wife is a United States citizen.

         Juvenile Court Opinion, 7/25/2016, at 1-3.

         On February 11, 2016, Maternal Uncle filed an application requesting permission to file a private dependency petition. The juvenile court granted permission to file. A hearing was held on May 13, 2016. Following the hearing, on May 26, 2016, the court entered its order denying Maternal Uncle's petition. Maternal Uncle, joined by Child's parents, filed a joint motion for reconsideration on June 1, 2016. The motion was denied and this timely filed appeal followed.[2]

         Maternal Uncle now raises the following issue for our review.

1. Whether the lower court erred in failing to adjudicate [] Child dependent, under subsection (3) of the Juvenile Act's definition of "dependent child, " where [Maternal Uncle] proved by clear and convincing evidence that [] Child has been abandoned by his parents?
2. Whether the lower court erred in failing to adjudicate [] Child dependent, under subsection (4) of the Juvenile Act's definition of "dependent child, " where [Maternal Uncle] proved by clear and convincing evidence that [] Child ...

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