In the Interest of: C.K., A Minor Appeal of: Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families In the Interest of: N.L., A Minor Appeal of: Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families
from the Order August 30, 2016 in the Court of Common Pleas
of Allegheny County Family Court at No(s):
BEFORE: OLSON, STABILE, and STRASSBURGER [*] , JJ.
County Office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF) appeals
from the order entered August 30, 2016, in the Court of
Common Pleas of Allegheny County, wherein the trial court
determined CYF did not make reasonable efforts to finalize
the permanency plan for minor children, N.L., born in January
2009, and C.K., born in August 2011, (collectively,
Children). We affirm.
(Mother) is the mother of both Children. J.K.-T (Father) is
the father of C.K. On September 29, 2014, the trial court
adjudicated Children dependent and "highlighted
Mother's experience of domestic violence and 
Children's exposure to domestic violence as primary
issues to be addressed." Trial Court Opinion,
11/23/2016, at 2. Children were removed from Mother for a
third time on October 29, 2014, and have remained in the same
foster care placement ever since. Id. At the time of
the order at issue, the permanency goal was "return to
parent or guardian" with a concurrent goal of adoption.
Id.; Order, 8/30/2016, at 1.
one year after Children's third removal, Dr. Rosenblum, a
psychologist, conducted a series of updated evaluations
concerning the family. See Psychological Evaluation,
10/27/2015 & 10/29/2015, at 1. In Dr. Rosenblum's
opinion, after undergoing counseling and experiencing a
stable family life with their foster parents, Children had
"made progress in dealing with extensive anxieties and
emotional insecurities stemming from their past exposure to
domestic violence and substance abuse difficulties on the
part of their parents." Id. at 11.
Nevertheless, N.L. "continue[d] to evidence concerning
emotional insecurities, anxiety and a lack of confidence
which stems from the trauma and instability that she
experienced when living with [Mother and Father]."
opining that Mother had developed "very little
insight" into the changes she needed to make, Dr.
Rosenblum recommended that, inter alia, CYF refer
Mother "for family therapy sessions with [Children] at a
program like Three Rivers Adoption Coun[ci]l (TRAC), "
stating he was "not convinced that [Mother] fully
underst[ood] the impact [on Children of] being exposed to
domestic violence and other sources of trauma in their family
life." Id. He concluded that Mother needed
"to be given every opportunity to succeed with her
desire to reunify with [Children]" but opined that
alternative permanency goals may be necessary for Children if
Mother did not begin to "demonstrate significant changes
with her personal functioning and lifestyle."
admitting Dr. Rosenblum's evaluation into the record at
the next permanency hearing on November 17, 2015, the trial
court ordered "CYF to explore inclusion of Mother in
Children's therapy, and facilitate Mother's
participation if indicated by therapist." Order,
12/20/2015, at 3. The trial court elaborated further.
As emphasized in previous orders, resolution of the [domestic
violence] issues in this matter is critical to 
Children's safety and well-being and to successful
reunification. Dr. Rosenblum's reports address the
effects of exposure to domestic violence on [N.L.] in
[N.L.] is participating in treatment at [Center for Traumatic
Stress], and treatment there for [C.K.] is being pursued.
[Children's foster father] testified that the therapist
would like [Mother and Father] to participate in this therapy
in some way. This should be pursued. At the moment, the Court
questions Mother's understanding of the impact of
[domestic violence] on  Children….
The Court is equally concerned about Father's
understanding of the [domestic violence] issues and his
commitment to ensuring that they are resolved.
Id. at 5.
next permanency hearing on February 9, 2016, N.L. had
completed therapy at the Center for Traumatic Stress. Order,
3/11/2016, at 4. Mother had not participated in N.L.'s
therapy, but the record does not indicate whether CYF
consulted with the therapist to determine if Mother's
participation was advisable. N.T., 2/9/2016, at 19, 53.
Therapy was pursued for C.K., but it was unclear whether
Center for Traumatic Stress would accept her due to her age.
Id. at 22-23; Order, 3/11/2016, at 4. By the time of
the hearing, C.K. was working with an in-home behavioral
therapist in the foster home to address an increase in
concerning behaviors, and N.L. was scheduled to begin mobile
therapy the following month. Order, 3/11/2016, at 4.
family therapy, the trial court stated "[d]espite Dr.
Rosenblum's recommendation and the Court's directive
that CYF explore options for Mother and  Children to
participate in family therapy, the worker did not make a
referral for that until about 3 weeks prior to today's
hearing." Order, 3/11/2016, at 4. The order also stated
that "[t]he [trial court] believes that family therapy
for Mother with  Children is important and would be
beneficial regardless of the form of permanency that is
ultimately to be achieved. It may be beneficial for Father to
have the opportunity to participate in family therapy as
well." Id. at 4. Consequently, the trial court
ordered "CYF to implement family therapy for Mother with
Children." Id. at 2.
March 22, 2016, Mother filed a motion to enforce the court
order for a referral to family therapy, requesting that the
trial court (1) hold CYF in contempt for failing to arrange
the therapy; (2) find that CYF failed to make reasonable
efforts dating back to the date of Dr. Rosenblum's
evaluation; and (3) toll the timeframes under the Adoption
and Safe Families Act (ASFA) from the date of the evaluation
until the therapy began. Motion, 3/22/2016. The trial court
denied all requested relief except for ordering that
"[t]he issue of the adequacy of the agency's efforts
to implement family therapy is preserved for the next
regularly scheduled permanency review." Order,
3/31/2016, at 1.
following month, Mother filed another motion to enforce the
court order, alleging that the therapy CYF had arranged
through A Second Chance was inadequate because the therapist
was not aware she was to provide trauma therapy. Motion,
4/29/2016. On May 3, 2016, the trial court granted the motion
and ordered the following.
CYF is to ensure that appropriate trauma based therapy is in
place for the family to address the impact domestic violence
has had on [C]hildren and to carry out the recommendations
regarding family therapy made in Dr. Rosenblum's
evaluation in the fall of 2015 and the [c]ourt's
subsequent orders. CYF to involve Dr. Rosenblum and any other
appropriate consultant to CYF in ensuring that the treating
professional has an accurate understanding of the intended
focus of the therapy.
Order, 5/3/2016, at 1.
25, 2016, the trial court began the next permanency hearing
but did not finish. Order, 5/31/2015, at 1. During the
hearing, the caseworker testified that a few days after the
February 9, 2016 hearing, she learned that the family-based
therapy provider CYF had arranged to work with the family
prior to the February hearing would not accept the case.
N.T., 5/25/2016, at 26, 49. According to the caseworker, CYF
then had a hard time finding a provider, but in March 2016, A
Second Chance agreed to provide therapy. Id. at 26,
50. Due to scheduling conflicts, only one session had
occurred. Id. The caseworker admitted that she
originally told A Second Chance that the purpose of the
therapy was to address "things that are going on in the
court" so Children were not "confused."
Id. at 51. After receiving the trial court's May
3, 2016 order, the caseworker sent Dr. Rosenblum's
October 2015 evaluation and dependency court orders to A
Second Chance, clarifying that the purpose of the therapy was
to address the effect of domestic violence on the family.
Id. at 26, 35-36, 51. At that point, A Second Chance
informed CYF that it could provide therapy but it would not
be trauma-based. Id. at 51.
also consulted with Dr. Rosenblum after the trial court
ordered the agency to do so on May 3, 2016. Id. at
26, 36, 51. Dr. Rosenblum informed CYF he recommended TRAC to
provide trauma-based services, the same agency he suggested
in his October 2015 evaluation. Id. at 26, 36. CYF
then referred the family to TRAC sometime in early May 2016.
Id. at 26. TRAC accepted the family for services,
but its next opening was not until June 2016. Id. at