NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION - SEE SUPERIOR COURT I.O.P. 65.37
IN RE: S.F., A MINOR
APPEAL OF: A.H., BIRTH MOTHER
IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF
No. 1437 WDA 2012
Appeal from the Order entered August 29, 2012
in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County,
Orphans' Court Division, at TPR No. 164 of 2011
IN RE: K.H., A MINOR
APPEAL OF: A.H., BIRTH MOTHER
IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF
No. 1438 WDA 2012
Appeal from the Order entered August 29, 2012
in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County,
Orphans' Court Division, at TPR No. 163 of 2011
IN RE: A.F., A MINOR
APPEAL OF: A.H., BIRTH MOTHER
IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF
No. 1440 WDA 2012
Appeal from the Order entered August 29, 2012
in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County,
Orphans' Court Division, at TPR No. 161 of 2011
BEFORE: DONOHUE, MUNDY, and PLATT*, JJ.
* Retired Senior Judge assigned to the Superior Court.
MEMORANDUM BY PLATT, J.:
Filed: April 16, 2013
In these consolidated cases, A.H. (Mother) appeals from the orders
dated and entered August 29 and 30, 2012,1 granting the petitions of the
Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) for the
involuntary termination of her parental rights to her three female children,
K.H., S.F., and A.F.2 (Children), pursuant to section 2511(a)(2), (5), (8),
and (b) of the Adoption Act, 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(2), (5), (8), and (b).
K.H. was born in December of 2005; S.F. was born in February of
2007; and A.F. was born in April of 2009. Mother also has two other male
children who are not subjects of this appeal: H.H., born in March of 2003,
and C.F., born in February of 2008.4
The trial court’s docket reflects that the trial court entered two of the
orders on its docket on August 29, 2012, and the third on August 30, 2012.
Although we are unable to determine from the record which order was
entered August 30, 2012, there is no dispute by any party as to whether any
of the appeals were timely filed.
The trial court also refers to the child A.F. as A.H.
On August 29, 2012, the trial court involuntarily terminated the parental
rights of C.F., IV, the father of S.F. and A.F., to those children. (See Trial
Court Opinion, 11/06/12, at 1 n.2). On that same date, the trial court
terminated the parental rights of B.S., the alleged father of K.H., to that
child. (Id.). None of the fathers or the alleged father have filed an appeal,
nor are any of them a party to this appeal.
K.T. a/k/a K.P., is the alleged father of H.H., and C.F., IV, is the father of
C.F. (See Trial Ct. Op., 11/06/12, n.1). The trial court noted that it also
ordered the involuntary termination of Mother’s parental rights to C.F. and
On December 13, 2011, OCYF filed petitions seeking to terminate
Mother’s parental rights to the Children. The trial court held an evidentiary
hearing on the petitions on August 29, 2012.
At the hearing, OCYF
presented the testimony of psychologist, Patricia Pepe, Ph.D.; and OCYF
caseworker, Elizabeth Reiter. C.F., IV, testified on his own behalf.
The trial court made the following findings of fact, in pertinent part,
from the testimony and evidence admitted at the hearing.
[O]CYF has been involved with this family since December
18, 2003, when [H.H.] was 9 months old. The agency received
a report concerning neglect of [H.H.]. Specifically it was alleged
that [M]other (who was sixteen years old) did not have diapers
or enough food for her child and was watering down the baby’s
formula. After an investigation, the case was closed at the end
of January 2004. On July 29, 2005, the agency received a
report that [M]other’s live-in paramour, [B.S.,] had an active
warrant for sexual abuse of a child and that [H.H] was at risk.
Mother was pregnant with [K.H.] at the time. Mother made
[B.S.] leave her home and the case was closed on August 2,
2005, [sic] On June 12, 2008, 911 was called to the family
home because [S.F.] had a seizure. When EMS arrived, they
found the home to be deplorable and made a report to the
agency. [O]CYF offered services and the case was closed on
June 19, 2008. Three months later on September 9, 2008, the
agency received a report that the house and the children were
filthy, that seven-month-old [C.F.] was “emaciated”, that there
was domestic violence in the home, and the home smelled like
“weed”. Mother was pregnant with [A.F.] at the time. The case
was closed on September 15, 2008. On November 17, 2008, the
agency received another report concerning [C.F.’s] weight and
that the home was deplorable. There were also reports that the
children were being left home alone. [O]CYF formally opened a
case on January 6, 2009 and services were put into place. The
agency also found that [H.H.] had a lice problem and was behind
on his immunizations. [H.H.] had also missed 34 days of school.
H.H.; Mother filed appeals in those cases, too, but discontinued them on
October 16, 2012. (See id.).
On March 30, 2009, [H.H.] was found alone, outside of the
family home. He was filthy. The agency continued services with
the family and the case was closed on August 24, 2009.
On June 22, 2010, [OCYF] became involved with this
family when the agency received a report that there had been no
water in the family home for a month and that the children were
dirty and that the home was dirty.
OCYF contacted McKeesport Police and requested a welfare
check of the home. Officer Vernon Andrews reported that he
went to the residence and the home was deplorable; filthy
furniture and beds; filthy floors; dirty, unsanitary bathroom,
including a feces[-]filled toilet; [and a] filthy stove, refrigerator,
and kitchen cabinets. The McKeesport [P]olice took protective
custody of the children and contacted OCYF to have the children
taken to the hospital for intake physicals and to be placed into
foster care. Upon completion of the physicals, it was discovered
that the children had head lice and scabies. The children were
removed from the care of their parents and placed into foster
OCYF filed petitions for dependency as to all of the
children. The children were subsequently adjudicated dependent
on August 10, 2010. The children have remained in care since
their removal on June 22, 2010.
(Trial Court Findings of Fact, 9/7/12, at ¶¶ 3-6) (paragraphs and page
numbering omitted). In support of its adjudication of dependency on August
10, 2010, the trial court entered findings of fact, which found, inter alia, that
all of the children were developmentally delayed. (See id. at 3 ¶ 8.a; see
also N.T. Hearing, 8/29/12, at 108-12).
Based on the testimony at the hearing on the termination petitions,
the trial court also found the following:
After the children came into care, they were re-infected by
lice after visitation with the parents. Mother was subsequently
treated for lice.
The primary family service plan (FSP) goals for [M]other
and [C.F., IV] ([F]ather) are mental health stability, addressing
domestic violence, sobriety, learning to meet the children’s
developmental needs of the children, having age appropriate
expectations for the children, [and] continuing and developing a
bond with the children through regular contact and visitation.
(Trial Court Findings of Fact, 9/07/12, at ¶¶ 10-11) (paragraphs and
At the hearing on the termination petitions, Ms. Reiter testified that
Mother had not reached her FSP goal of eliminating verbal and physical
abuse, because she remains in the relationship with C.F., IV, or in a similar
relationship. (See N.T., hearing, 8/29/12, at 119-120). Ms. Reiter stated
that Mother believes that the Children’s developmental delays and mental
health issues were a result of foster care.
(Id. at 120-121).
testified that Mother did complete her FSP goal of completing a parenting
class or showing an understanding of the Children’s developmental delays.
(Id. at 127).
Ms. Reiter also testified that Mother had not completed her
goal of stabilizing her mental health problems. (Id.). Although Mother was
enrolled in treatment at Mon Yough Community Services between January of
2011 and May of 2012, she attended only eight individual therapy sessions,
and did not complete the goal.
(Id. at 128-29).
Additionally, Ms. Reiter
testified that, although Mother had completed a class in parenting at
Arsenal, during visits, she did not demonstrate an understanding of how to
parent the Children. (Id. at 131).
The record shows that, between September of 2010 and July of 2012,
Dr. Pepe completed thirty-three evaluations in this case, including individual
evaluations of the Children, Mother, and C.F., IV; interactional evaluations of
the Children with Mother and C.F., IV; and interactional evaluations of the
Children and their foster parents.
(See Trial Court Findings of Fact,
9/07/12, at ¶ 23). The record also shows that Dr. Pepe diagnosed all three
of the Children with post-traumatic stress disorder from their parental home.
(See id. at ¶¶ 24-25, 26-27, 33-36).
Dr. Pepe conducted an interactional evaluation of Mother with the
Children on April 25, 2012. (See N.T. Hearing, 8/29/12, at 55). Dr. Pepe
testified that Mother lacks the capacity to parent the Children. (See id. at
Mother could not meet their daily needs and developmental
expectations because of her lack of structure and resources, which led to her
leaving the Children on their own. (Id.).
Further, Dr. Pepe testified that the Children have always been exposed
to “pathogenic” care by Mother and C.F., IV. (Id. at 38). For instance, Dr.
Pepe stated that K.H. had related that she had observed her father shoot the
family dog, and that she is afraid that her father would shoot her. (Id. at
13). Additionally, Dr. Pepe testified that K.H. had told her that she had to
take a gun away from her younger sister, S.F., and put it in her father’s
drawer. (Id.) at 13. Dr. Pepe opined that K.H. has “parentifying dynamics”
issues (having to act in the capacity of a parent to her siblings); that she
was physically aggressive toward S.F. in their foster home; and that A.F.
was mimicking K.H.’s behaviors. (Id. at 13-14).
Dr. Pepe stated that Mother needed to provide more structure in
providing instruction to the children and required outpatient psychotherapy
and other treatment to improve her parental capacity, but had failed to
obtain them. (See id. at 15-19).
The evidence demonstrated that OCYF offered parenting resources and
mental health care to Mother, but she did not consistently make use of
them. (Id. at 56). Dr. Pepe testified that Mother needs to make changes to
keep the Children safe and make them a priority in her life. (Id. at 56-57).
She opined that Mother would have to engage consistently in her mental
health care. (Id. at 56). Dr. Pepe also testified that, based on her clinical
observation of Mother on May 30, 2012, Mother was in denial, blaming the
foster parents for the Children’s issues.
(Id. at 60-61).
prognosis for Mother’s capacity to parent was “guarded.”
(Id. at 61-62).
Dr. Pepe testified that Mother did not appear to have benefitted from her
parenting program and lacked the stability to parent on her own. (Id. at 57,
Dr. Pepe also testified that her evaluation on December 14, 2011
showed that K.H. and S.F. were happy in their pre-adoptive foster home,
and that their foster parents provided good care and had excellent parenting
skills. (Id. at 40-42). Dr. Pepe testified that, if K.H. and S.F. were removed
from their foster home, they would experience developmental regression,
psychological/behavioral problems, lack of stability, and confusion because
of their positive attachment to their foster parents. (Id. at 59-60).
Dr. Pepe found from her evaluation of A.F. on April 2, 2012, that A.F.
was having behavior problems in her foster home. (Id. at 42-43). Dr. Pepe
believed that A.F.’s aggressive behavior mimicked the behavior of K.H.
toward her when A.F. was very young, and was a result of post-traumatic
(Id. at 42-44).
Dr. Pepe also testified that A.F.’s foster parents
understood the seriousness of the child’s behaviors, and A.F. had an
emotional primary, positive attachment with them.
(Id. at 51-52).
Pepe stated that A.F.’s foster parents exhibited excellent parenting skills and
a positive, permanent attachment to her. (Id. at 52). Dr. Pepe opined that
the removal of A.F. from her foster parents would have a devastating effect
on her. (Id.).
Dr. Pepe found that the Children continue to have some attachment to
Mother, but it was a “pathogenic” attachment, reflective of a toxic
relationship between Mother and C.F., IV.
(Id. at 37, 63).
testified that the Children had been able to make a healthy detachment from
Mother and a healthy attachment to their foster parents’ homes.
64). Dr. Pepe opined that it would be in the best interests of the Children to
remain in their foster homes, and be adopted. (Id.).
Based on the testimony and reports of Dr. Pepe with regard to Mother,
the trial court found the following:
Mother is diagnosed with: Axis I: Major Depressive
Disorder; Axis II: Dependent Personality Disorder; Axis III:
Obesity. In general, it seems that [M]other doesn’t believe that
there were ever any fundamental problems.
there is not a necessity to make any significant life changes.
This is obviously problematic as there would be a higher
likelihood that the previous dysfunctional family dynamics,
circumstances and interaction would likely reoccur because
essentially there are no reasons to change. Consequently, it
does not appear as if [Mother] has addressed her family service
plan goals to the point where she would exhibit the individual
stability and parental responsibility to once again parent her
children. Consequently, reunification does not present as a
(Trial Court Findings of Fact, 9/07/12, at ¶ 37) (paragraphs and numbering
Based on the testimony of Dr. Pepe, the trial court also found the
The older children still have a bond with the parents.
However, given the “pathogenic and toxic” bond and relationship
with the parents, it is in the best interest for the children to
remain in their current placements permanently. Removal from
their foster homes (enriched environments) would be harmful
and would likely cause regression.
(Id. at 8 ¶ 39).
On August 29, 2012, the trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights
with regard to the Children.
On September 19, 2012, Mother timely filed
Statements of Errors Complained of on Appeal, pursuant to Pa.R.A.P.
1925(a)(2)(i) and (b). We consolidated the appeals on October 9, 2012.
On appeal, Mother raises the single following issue for our review:
Did the trial court err in finding that CYF presented clear and
convincing evidence that involuntary termination of Mother’s
parental rights would best meet the developmental, physical and
emotional needs and welfare of the children?
(Mother’s Brief, at 9).
In reviewing an appeal from the termination of parental rights, we
review the appeal in accordance with the following standard.
[A]ppellate courts must apply an abuse of discretion
standard when considering a trial court’s determination of a
petition for termination of parental rights. As in dependency
cases, our standard of review requires an appellate court to
accept the findings of fact and credibility determinations of the
trial court if they are supported by the record. In re: R.J.T.,
608 Pa. 9, 9 A.3d 1179, 1190 (Pa. 2010). If the factual findings
are supported, appellate courts review to determine if the trial
court made an error of law or abused its discretion. Id.; R.I.S.,
[___ Pa. ___, ___, 36 A.3d 567, 572 (Pa. 2011) (plurality
opinion)]. As has been often stated, an abuse of discretion does
not result merely because the reviewing court might have
reached a different conclusion. Id.; see also Samuel Bassett
v. Kia Motors America, Inc., [___ Pa. ___], 34 A.3d 1, 51 (Pa.
2011); Christianson v. Ely, [575 Pa. 647, 654-655], 838 A.2d
630, 634 (Pa. 2003). Instead, a decision may be reversed for an
abuse of discretion only upon demonstration of manifest
unreasonableness, partiality, prejudice, bias, or ill-will. Id.
As we discussed in R.J.T., there are clear reasons for
applying an abuse of discretion standard of review in these
cases. We observed that, unlike trial courts, appellate courts are
not equipped to make the fact-specific determinations on a cold
record, where the trial judges are observing the parties during
the relevant hearing and often presiding over numerous other
hearings regarding the child and parents. R.J.T., [608 Pa. at
28-30], 9 A.3d at 1190. Therefore, even where the facts could
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support an opposite result, as is often the case in dependency
and termination cases, an appellate court must resist the urge to
second guess the trial court and impose its own credibility
determinations and judgment; instead we must defer to the trial
judges so long as the factual findings are supported by the
record and the court’s legal conclusions are not the result of an
error of law or an abuse of discretion. In re Adoption of
Atencio, [539 Pa. 161, 165,] 650 A.2d 1064, 1066 (Pa. 1994).
In re Adoption of S.P., 47 A.3d 817, 826-27 (Pa. 2012).
The burden is on the petitioner to prove by clear and convincing
evidence that the asserted grounds for seeking the termination of parental
rights are valid. In re R.N.J., 985 A.2d 273, 276 (Pa. Super. 2009).
Moreover, we have explained that:
[t]he standard of clear and convincing evidence is defined as
testimony that is so “clear, direct, weighty and convincing as to
enable the trier of fact to come to a clear conviction, without
hesitance, of the truth of the precise facts in issue.”
Id. (quoting In re J.L.C., 837 A.2d 1247, 1251 (Pa. Super. 2003)).
Section 2511 provides, in relevant part, as follows.
§ 2511. Grounds for involuntary termination
(a) General rule.—The rights of a parent in regard to a child
may be terminated after a petition filed on any of the following
(2) The repeated and continued incapacity, abuse,
neglect or refusal of the parent has caused the child to be
without essential parental care, control or subsistence
necessary for his physical or mental well-being and the
conditions and causes of the incapacity, abuse, neglect or
refusal cannot or will not be remedied by the parent.
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(b) Other considerations.—The court in terminating the rights
of a parent shall give primary consideration to the
developmental, physical and emotional needs and welfare of the
child. The rights of a parent shall not be terminated solely on
the basis of environmental factors such as inadequate housing,
furnishings, income, clothing and medical care if found to be
beyond the control of the parent. With respect to any petition
filed pursuant to subsection (a)(1), (6) or (8), the court shall not
consider any efforts by the parent to remedy the conditions
described therein which are first initiated subsequent to the
giving of notice of the filing of the petition.
23 Pa.C.S.A. § 2511(a)(2), (b).
We observe that the trial court granted the petition to terminate
Mother’s parental rights under sections 2511(a) and (b), but she challenges
only the termination under section 2511(b).
Thus, she has waived any
challenge to termination under section 2511(a). See Krebs v. United Ref.
Co., 893 A.2d 776, 797 (Pa. Super. 2006), in which we stated, “[w]e will not
ordinarily consider any issue if it has not been set forth in or suggested by
an appellate brief’s statement of questions involved, Pa.R.A.P. 2116(a). . . .”
We would, nevertheless, find that the trial court’s decision to terminate
Mother’s parental rights under section 2511(a)(2) is supported by the
competent evidence in the record. See In re C.L.G., 956 A.2d 999, 1009
(Pa. Super. 2008) (en banc) (stating that, on review of a termination of
parental rights, only after we ascertain whether the termination was proper
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under section 2511(a) should we review the termination pursuant to section
2511(a)(2) as follows:
As stated above, § 2511(a)(2) provides statutory grounds for
termination of parental rights where it is demonstrated by clear
and convincing evidence that “[t]he repeated and continued
incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal of the parent has caused
the child to be without essential parental care, control or
subsistence necessary for his physical or mental well-being and
the conditions and causes of the incapacity, abuse, neglect or
refusal cannot or will not be remedied by the parent.” .
This Court has addressed incapacity sufficient for termination
under § 2511(a)(2):
A decision to terminate parental rights, never to be made
lightly or without a sense of compassion for the parent,
can seldom be more difficult than when termination is
based upon parental incapacity.
however, in enacting the 1970 Adoption Act, concluded
that a parent who is incapable of performing parental
duties is just as parentally unfit as one who refuses to
perform the duties.
In re Adoption of J.J., 515 A.2d 883, 891 (Pa. 1986) (quoting
In re: William L., 383 A.2d 1228, 1239 (Pa. 1978).
In re Adoption of S.P., supra at 827.
The trial court made the following findings of fact under section
This Court may affirm the trial court’s decision regarding the termination of
parental rights with regard to any one subsection of section 2511(a). See
In re B.L.W., 843 A.2d 380, 384 (Pa. Super. 2004) (en banc), appeal
denied, 863 A.2d 1141 (Pa. 2004).
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Mother and [F]ather have achieved sobriety. For the most
part, they have visited their children. Mother has housing at this
However, neither [M]other nor [F]ather has achieved
mental health stability or addressed domestic violence. [O]CYF
offered the parents many services to address these issues.
Neither is currently participating in mental health treatment and
neither has sufficiently addressed domestic violence. Dr. Pepe
continues to recommend mental health therapy and domestic
See findings re Dr. Pepe’s testimony,
The children have many special needs. When they came
into care, the children had behavioral issues and developmental
[sic] delays. All of the children have improved significantly in
both behavior and development in the enriched environments of
their foster homes. While they have made a lot of progress and
improvement, they still have significant issues that need to be
addressed. Their respective foster parents are attending to their
special needs in an appropriate way.
Neither [M]other nor [F]ather seems to understand the
need for continued mental health treatment. They tend to
minimize the severity of the domestic violence or the impact that
it has had on their children. Both tend to blame others for the
reasons that the children were removed and why they remain in
(Trial Court Findings of Fact, 9/07/12, at ¶¶ 12-15) (paragraphs and
Had Mother not waived any challenge to section 2511(a)(2), we would
conclude that the trial court’s credibility and weight determinations with
regard to section 2511(a)(2) are supported by competent evidence in the
record. See In re S.P., supra at 826-27.
Next, we address section 2511(b) of the Adoption Act. In reviewing
the evidence in support of termination under section 2511(b), we consider
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whether termination of parental rights would best serve the developmental,
physical and emotional needs and welfare of the child. See In Re C.M.S.,
884 A.2d 1284, 1286-1287 (Pa. Super. 2005), appeal denied sub nom.
C.M.S. v. D.E.H., Jr., 897 A.2d 1183 (Pa. 2006).
Intangibles such as love, comfort, security, and stability are
involved in the inquiry into the needs and welfare of the child.
The court must also discern the nature and status of the parentchild bond, with utmost attention to the effect on the child of
permanently severing that bond.
Id. at 1287 (citations omitted).
Based on the testimony and reports of Dr. Pepe, the trial court made
the following findings of fact.
[K.H.] continues to exhibit some very disconcerting
behaviors, specifically that she is cruel to animals, is physically
aggressive, she bullies other children and she is very hurtful
towards her younger sister, [S.F.].
Her behaviors have
dramatically impacted her functioning in various areas including
school, community, and home and[,] consequently, someone
with experience in trauma based treatment is needed for
psychotherapeutic services. [K.H.] is clearly a child that is in
trouble. She exhibits multiple symptoms of Reactive Attachment
Disorder and in fact seems very disconnected from her
behavioral functioning at times.
[S.F.] is exhibiting positive functioning.
She is now
exhibiting symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder including
nightmares and intrusive thoughts and what appear to be
flashbacks. She does express feeling safe in her current home
and very distinctly expressed that now that she lives with [Ms.
C.Z.], she feels safe because she has a lamp but previously she
[S.F.] has exhibited improved developmental
functioning and quite clearly it does present to be in her best
psychological interest to remain in her current home on a
permanent basis. It is anticipated that as [S.F.] remains in
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therapy and if she is able to remain in her current home that she
views as providing safety and nurturance, she will be able to
continue to express symptoms related to posttraumatic stress
disorder as well as excessive worries and concern’s [sic] in
moving toward a more positive psychological future.
[A.F.] is exceptionally physically aggressive. She often
bites, punches, kicks, has attempted to suffocate a child and has
bitten her foster brother until he bleeds.
[A.F.] is a very intelligent little girl with an IQ that is in the
She obviously exhibits a close emotional
alignment with her foster parents and to move the child at this
point would be extremely detrimental to her current and most
probably future functioning.
If the child is moved,
developmental regression would occur as well as increase
intensity in maladaptive behaviors including physical aggression.
The foster parents are committed to the child and are hopeful to
adopt should she become available. Both exhibited individual
stability in their individual lives and neither have exhibited
maladaptive functioning. During the evaluation, both were very
attuned to the toddler[,] and [A.F.] consistently exhibited a
positive emotional alignment with her foster parents[,] whom
she readily referred to as mommy and daddy. She was clearly
and consistently relaxed and comfortable in their presence.
[A.F.] is very self-expressive and her foster parents did a very
good job in taking an instructional approach. As a result, the
child has an excellent vocabulary for her age and was able to
identify multiple items including a lion, crocodile[,] and a
[A.F.’s] foster parents were also very encouraging of the
child. For example, they would often refer to her as being
“beautiful” and as “smart”.
The child did exhibit multiple
bonding behaviors suggesting a primary attachment towards her
foster parents and both [foster parents] consistently exhibited
excellent parenting skills and do present as a very positive
permanent placement resource for the child.
(Trial Court Findings of Fact, 9/07/12, at ¶¶ 25, 27, 34-36) (paragraphs and
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The trial court also found the following facts regarding the bond that
the Children have with Mother and with their foster parents.
[K.H.] and [S.F.] are placed in the Every Child foster
home of [Mrs. C.H. and Mr. J.H.]. This is a pre-adoptive home.
The girls are doing quite well in the care of Mr. and Mrs. [H.].
[K.H.] will enter 1st grade at Bon Air [E]lementary School. She
receives wraparound services through NISAR [Health] and
Human Services. She needs treatment for sexual aggression.
The foster mother is looking for an appropriate program. [K.H.]
continues to exhibit very concerning behavior surrounding
visitation with siblings and in her interactions with other[s].
These include: masturbation, cruelty to animals, and general
[S.F.] also continues to have some behavioral
issues, but her behaviors have improved. [S.F.] is enrolled in
[K.H.] and [S.F.] like their foster home and feel safe.
They are developing a stronger bond with their foster parents.
[A.F.] is placed in the Families United Network foster home
of [Ms. C.Z. and Mr. D.T.]. She is doing well in this home.
[A.F.] has been having some behavioral issues such as:
tantrums, clinging to [Ms. Z.], and aggression. [A.F.] receives
services through Southwestern Human Services. [A.F.] is happy
in her foster home. Her primary bond is with her foster parents.
Mother has moved to a new apartment. She states that
she is separated from [F]ather and that they have minimal
contact with each other. Based, in part, upon information on
Facebook, the agency still has concerns that [M]other and
[F]ather continue to have contact and a relationship.
(Id. at ¶¶ 19-22) (paragraphs and numbering omitted).
Mother asserts that she loves the Children and desires to parent them,
and that the Children have a bond with her. (See Mother’s Brief, at 17, 19).
She notes that the behavior of the Children is violent and disturbing even
though the trial court found that the Children are doing well in their foster
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Mother claims that the trial court lacked evidence to support the
finding that their behavioral issues are related to the care of their birth
parents, rather than the foster parents. (See id. at 18).
The trial court found the following:
Based upon the length of time that the children have been
in care and the time that the parents have had to remedy the
conditions, along with Dr. Pepe’s opinion that the prognosis for
change is guarded, at best, [the trial court found] that the
parents will not remedy the conditions that led to the placement
of their children within a reasonable period of time, if ever.
Specifically, these children came into care due to
deplorable housing, severe neglect and domestic violence. Both
[M]other and [F]ather have mental health needs that have not
been addressed. At this time they do not possess the stability to
care for themselves, let alone their children who continue to
have many special needs.
There is no doubt that [M]other and [F]ather love their
children and desire to parent them. There is doubt, [sic] that
the older children still have a connection to their parents.
However this connection is not healthy.
The children are
becoming bonded to their foster parents who are committed to
them and who are meeting all of their needs.
The children have made rather remarkable progress in
their foster homes. [The trial court found] that removal form
[sic] their foster homes, [sic] would likely cause regression and
would be harmful to the children.
Clearly termination of parental rights best serves the
needs and welfare of all of the children.
(Trial Court Findings of Fact, 9/07/12, at ¶¶ 42-46) (paragraphs and
The trial court based its findings on the testimony and reports of Dr.
Regarding the bond between the Children and Mother, Dr. Pepe
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testified that she observed that the Children had a diminished attachment to
Mother as their primary and psychological parent.
8/29/12, at 58).
(See N.T. Hearing,
Further, on cross-examination by Mother’s counsel, Dr.
Pepe testified that A.F., who had been removed from Mother’s care at the
age of fourteen months, could have been aware of the stress in her parents’
household in her infancy. (Id. at 65-66). Dr. Pepe further stated that A.F.
could express the stress she experienced in her parents’ house through her
behavior. (Id. at 66-67).
On cross-examination by the guardian ad litem, Dr. Pepe testified that
the Children had initially exhibited developmental delays, but that their
functioning had increased while they have been in foster care. (Id. at 8182). Dr. Pepe opined that when Mother left the Children alone, there would
have been a resulting negative psychological impact on them. (Id. at 87).
Additionally, the trial court found that Mother’s parental incapacity led
to the placement of the Children in foster care at young ages. This Court
has observed that no bond worth preserving is formed between a child and a
natural parent where the child has been in foster care for most of the child’s
life, and the resulting bond is attenuated. See In re K.Z.S., 946 A.2d 753,
762, 764 (Pa. Super. 2008).
On careful review of the evidentiary record, we find that the trial
court’s determinations are supported by competent evidence in the record.
We will not disturb the trial court’s credibility and weight assessments on
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appeal. See In re S.P., supra at 826-27. Accordingly, we conclude that
Mother’s argument regarding section 2511(b) does not merit relief, and
affirm the trial court’s orders.
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