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In re D.L.B.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

June 15, 2017

IN RE: D.L.B., MINOR CHILD APPEAL OF: T.L.S.

         Appeal from the Order, January 11, 2017, in the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County Orphans' Court Division at No. 2016 AD 51

          BEFORE: PANELLA, J., DUBOW, J., AND FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.

          OPINION

          FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.

         T.L.S. ("Father") appeals from the January 11, 2017 order granting the petition of the Blair County Office of Children, Youth and Families ("CYF") to involuntarily terminate his parental rights to his minor female child, D.L.B. ("Child"), pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), and (b). After careful review, we affirm.

         The relevant facts and procedural history of this case may be summarized as follows. Child was born in May 2016 to Father and S.R.B. ("Mother")[1] and was placed in foster care six days after being discharged from the hospital after birth. At the time of her birth, Child exhibited symptoms of prenatal drug use by Mother that resulted in Child being placed on medical morphine. (Notes of testimony, 5/17/16 at 11-15.) CYF previously took custody of Mother and Father's older daughter and Child's sister, W.R.B., who was born in February 2012 and was adjudicated dependent on June 30, 2015.[2]

         On May 17, 2016, the trial court conducted an adjudication hearing with respect to Child. The record reflects that Father was incarcerated at the time of this hearing and did not express a desire to be a permanent resource for Child. (See notes of testimony, 5/17/16 at 27-28; Order of Adjudication and Dependency, 5/23/16 at 2, ¶ 1.) At the conclusion of this hearing, the trial court specifically directed Father to comply with all terms and conditions of his parole; to refrain from the use or possession of controlled substances; and to attain and maintain stable housing and employment. (See Order of Adjudication and Dependency, 5/23/16 at 5-6, ¶ 17.) Neither parent appealed the trial court's May 23, 2016 adjudicatory order.

         Father was subsequently released from prison on June 20, 2016, and has been minimally involved in Child's life since that time. The record reflects that Father attended supervised visits with Child until September 3, 2016, but often showed up late and demonstrated poor parenting skills. (Notes of testimony, 9/1/16 at 19-20, 29.) Since her discharge from the hospital, Child has resided in the same foster home as W.R.B., and her foster parents serve as adoptive resources for both girls. (Permanency Review Order, 12/21/16 at 6, ¶ 23b; Permanency Review Order, 12/21/16 at 2, ¶ 4a.)

         On September 1, 2016, the trial court conducted a fourth-month permanency review hearing and made the following findings of fact with respect to Father:

[F]ather has failed to report to the Cambria County Parole & Probation Office since his release from incarceration on 6/20/16. He has not responded to messages left by his parole officer, Shawn Leahey, nor was Officer Leahey able to find [F]ather at his approved residence. Thus, [F]ather is in violation of the terms of his parole and is at risk of being detained. It does not appear that [F]ather is engaging in his treatment at the Open Door[ drug and alcohol counseling], as he has been directed. If [F]ather is detained, he could potentially remain incarcerated up to his maximum date (an additional 30 months). [F]ather did cooperate with the paternity testing, which established that he is the biological father of D.L.B. [F]ather has attended supervised visits (usually showing up late) but demonstrates a lack of basic parenting skills. [F]ather was drug screened on 8/18/16 (testing positive for Suboxone, for which he does not have a prescription) and on 8/20/16 (testing positive for THC). It is also worth noting that [F]ather appeared for our 9/1/16 hearing, but when advised that his parole officer would be participating by telephone, [F]ather left the courtroom and did not return.

         Permanency Review Order, 9/6/16 at 2, ¶ 3b. The trial court subsequently terminated Father's visits with Child on September 1, 2016. (Id. At 8, ¶ 28.)

         Thereafter, on December 9, 2016, CYF filed a petition to involuntarily terminate Father's parental rights to Child. On December 14, 2016, Father was found to have violated the terms of parole and was re-incarcerated with a maximum release date of September 10, 2018. (Notes of testimony, 12/20/16 at 8, 10-11; Permanency Review Order, 12/21/16 at 1-2, ¶ 3b.) On December 20, 2016, the trial court conducted a seventh-month permanency review hearing and made the following additional findings with respect to Father:

[F]ather is not actively involved in any drug and alcohol treatment, nor mental health counseling. He needs to complete 100 hours of community service as part of his conditions of parole. He has not maintained any contact with his children, [CYF] or any service provider. While he was out on parole, [CYF] had great difficulty in contacting him. The last time [F]ather initiated contact with the Agency was in mid-March[] 2016.

         Permanency Review Order, 12/21/16 at 2, ¶ 3b.

On January 11, 2017, the trial court conducted a termination hearing with respect to Child. During this hearing, the trial court granted CYF's request to incorporate the testimony from the aforementioned dependency proceedings for Child and W.R.B. into the record. (Notes of testimony, 1/11/17 at 5-6.) That same day, the trial court entered an order involuntarily terminating Father's parental rights to Child, pursuant to Sections 2511(a)(1), (2), (5), and (b). On January 24, 2017, Father filed a timely notice of appeal to this court. That same day, Father filed a concise ...

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