N.R.H. Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights of J.L.H.

14
August
2012

544 BUCKS COUNTY LAW REPORTER

 

2012 BCBA N.R.H. Invol. Term. of Parental Rights [  85 Bucks Co. L. Rep. N.R.H. Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights Mother appeals decree granting Bucks County Children & Youth Social Services Agency’s request to terminate her parental rights.

 

Parent and child –  Involuntary termination of parental rights – Grounds for termination – Best interest of the child

 

Held, mother’s rights terminated.

 

1. In reviewing a petition for termination of parental rights, the agency bears the evidentiary burden of proving that the statutory grounds for termination have been met. Once that burden has been satisfied, the court must decide whether the termination of parental rights meets the best interest of the child.

 

2. The court’s initial focus in a termination hearing is upon the conduct of the parent.

 

The conduct considered is not limited to affirmative misconduct but may include the failure to rectify a situation that may be detrimental to the child.C.P.BucksCounty, Orphans’ Court Division, No. 2011-9061. Involuntary termination of parental rights: In re: N.R.H. Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights of J.L.H. Craig Penglase, of Penglase & Benson, Inc., for Mother. Brad M. Jackman, for Bucks County Children & Youth Social Services Agency. Sara Tucker, attorney ad litem. McMASTER, J., October 31, 2011. J.L.H. (hereinafter referred to as Mother) has appealed our September 1, 2011, Decree granting the petition of Bucks County Children & Youth Social Services Agency (hereinafter referred to as the Agency) to terminate Mother’s parental rights as to N.R.H. (hereinafter referred to as Child). Mother is the natural mother of Child.

 

A lengthy evidentiary hearing spanning two days was held on August 10, 2011, and September 1, 2011. On August 10, 2011, prior to commencing the hearing regarding Mother’s parental rights, Child’s putative father, J.H., voluntarily relinquished his parental rights to Child. The parental rights of Child’s presumptive father, J.B., were involuntarily terminated on September 1, 2011. J.B. was not present at the evidentiary hearing and he has not appealed our Decree. Only Mother has appealed and this Opinion will focus solely on other.

 

BACKGROUND

 

 

Child, a male, was born to Mother, then age 25, on February 19, 2006. N.T., 8/10/11, p. 61. Child’s presumptive father, J.B., was married to Mother at the time but is not the biological father of Child. N.T., 8/10/11, pp. 38-39. Child came into care of the Agency in October 2009, though the Agency had had previous contact with Mother on at least two occasions. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 8. Child was placed in the home of his maternal grandmother and step-grandfather (Grandparents), with whom he had resided for the first two years of his life. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 38.

 

The Agency reported during the evidentiary hearing that Child has spent most of his life with Grandparents, and that Grandparents are ready and willing to be Child’s adoptive parents. N.T., 9/1/11, pp. 21, 38. Several issues concerned the Agency when it decided to take Child into care. These included her personal relationship with her paramour John V., her mental health issues and her housing insecurity. Mother’s permanency plan, created by the Agency, outlined goals Mother was to achieve in order to regain custody of Child. Mother was to end her relationship with Mr. V., attend and successfully complete domestic violence counseling, obtain a mental health evaluation and receive treatment if necessary, and acquire appropriate housing for herself and Child, where Mr. V. would not be in residence. N.T., 9/1/11, pp. 9, 14, 15. Mother’s failure to meet these goals to the Agency’s satisfaction resulted in Child continuing his placement with the foster parents and ultimately, to the Agency’s petition for termination of Mother’s parental rights.

 

Mother’s paramour, John V., has been a significant part of Mother’s life since Child came into the Agency’s care, and remains one of the Agency’s most significant concerns regarding Mother’s custody of Child. Due to a lengthy history of domestic violence and abuse, the Agency has consistently requested that Mother remove Mr. V. from her life, which she has refused to do. Mr. V. has a “criminal history involving sexually inappropriate behavior in front of . . . minor children.” N.T., 9/1/11, p. 9. Child also witnessed a substantial amount of violence on the part of Mr. V. Child reported to the Agency that he once witnessed Mr. V. being shot, and also witnessed Mr. V. strike Mother often enough that Child, when asked by an Agency caseworker, “puts his hands up to kind of simulate fighting.” N.T., 9/1/11, pp. 9, 38.

 

Mother has admitted to Shawn Rush, an Agency caseworker, that Mr. V. is physically abusive to her, and yet she still refuses to remove herself from the relationship.  Mr. Rush also testified that, upon further research “involving police activity just in Bristol Townshipthere were 42 pages worth of incidences between [Mother] and Mr. V. in which the police were called.” N.T., 9/1/11, p. 10. Mother acknowledged during her testimony that she understood that the Agency was concerned about her relationship with Mr. V. N.T., 8/10/11, p. 68. Mother’s testimony, however, did not demonstrate an understanding of the seriousness of Mr. V.’s behavior and criminal history.

 

The Agency informed Mother from the beginning of their interaction that Mother’s regaining custody of Child was contingent upon her termination of her relationship with Mr. V. Mother has also been aware since very early on that her association with Mr. V. is a toxic one and would most likely impact her relationship with her son. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 14. In 2008, The Honorable Diane E. Gibbons of this Court, sitting in a family court matter, informed Mother that Mr. V.’s habit of exposing himself to women and children for sexual gratification was a dangerous one.  “And I am very sad to say that Mr. V. is a danger to your child. He has engaged in conduct that I believe is not curable.”  Ex. CY-9, p. 3. Judge Gibbons went on to warn Mother, “The more you defend him, the less likely you are to keep your children, because the Court’s going to say you are putting him first. And he can never be first.” Ex. CY-9, pp. 5-6. Judge Gibbons concluded her remarks with a statement concerning Mother’s choice to maintain her relationship with Mr. V.: “Unfortunately, it has become very clear to me that she cannot – she cannot or will not, I don’t know which one it is at this point, protect her child from this man.” Ex. CY-9, p. 7.

 

Mother has had substantial notice that her relationship with Mr. V. was greatly impacting her ability to regain custody of Child, yet she still made no indication to this Court that she will end that relationship.  N.T., 9/1/11, p. 13. As recently as April of this year, Mother insisted that if she was given the choice between permanently losing custody of Child or moving into a shelter after leaving Mr. V., she would choose to remain with Mr. V. rather than go to a shelter, even if that meant losing her son. N.T., 9/1/11, pp. 18-19.

 

Mr. V.’s presence was one of the reasons the Agency removed Child from Mother’s custody, and Mr. V.’s continued presence in Mother’s life has prevented Child’s return to Mother. Mother also was to acquire stable housing, where Mr. V. was not in residence, under her permanency plan.  Unfortunately, Mr. Rush testified that Mother has failed to do that, nearly two years since Child was placed under the care of the Agency. Mother has moved multiple times since Child was removed from her care. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 14. None of those residences would have been able to accommodate Child. At each residence, either physical space was an issue or Mr. V.’s residency prevented Child’s return. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 15.

 

Currently, Mother appears to be residing with Mr. V. and his father, at his father’s residence, but the Agency had no additional information regarding that residence at the time of the evidentiary hearing. Since February 2008, Mother moved at least seven times, bouncing between the homes of various members of Mr. V.’s family, rented rooms, and an apartment which she occupied without a written lease. N.T., 8/10/11, pp. 110-12. One of Mother’s objectives was to acquire safe and stable housing that could accommodate a child, and Mother admitted that she has not yet met that objective. N.T., 8/10/11, p. 112.

 

The Agency requested, as part of Mother’s permanency plan, that Mother attend domestic violence counseling sessions and seek a mental health evaluation and comply with suggested mental health treatment. Mother was asked to participate in and successfully complete domestic violence counseling and a batterer’s intervention program. She neglected to complete either program. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 15. Mother also failed to comply with the mental health treatment suggested by her evaluation. She began a treatment program with three different providers, but neglected to continue with treatment at any of those locations. N.T., 8/10/11, pp. 122-23. The Agency reported that at the time of the hearing, Mother had no mental health services in the prior six months. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 16.

 

The Agency attempted to assist Mother by providing services and referrals to other providers as needed, however she did not take advantage of those services to meet her goals. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 16; Ex. CY-10. Mr. Rush also testified that Mother never requested services that the Agency was unable to provide. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 18.

 

Child was and still is placed with Grandparents in Levittown,Bucks County,Pennsylvania. Grandparent’s adult child, Christina, who is about 20 years old, also lives in the home with Child. N.T., 8/10/11, p. 46. Mr. Rush testified that Child is very bonded to Grandparents, and that Child is affectionate toward Grandparents and they are affectionate toward him. Child is also affectionate toward Christina, and she is patient and affectionate toward Child. N.T., 8/10/11, pp. 47-48. Mr. Rush explained that, “[Grandparents] were able to help him through behavioral health needs, medical needs and just the daily emotional [needs] and [provide] the love and the structure that [they] provide for him. They’re involved with his education and any services that he has.” N.T., 9/1/11, p. 22.

 

As new foster parents, Grandparents were also involved with Child’s urgent dental needs. When Child came into the Agency’s care, he had 13 dental cavities and needed extensive dental work in February 2010. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 20. Mr. Rush testified that Grandparents are willing and ready to be Child’s adoptive parents. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 21. He also testified that the Agency would consent to Grandparents’ adoption of Child. N.T., 8/10/11, p. 49. The Agency filed its Petition for Involuntary Termination of Mother’s Parental Rights on April 1, 2011. An evidentiary hearing was initially scheduled for June 1, 2011, but was continued until August 10, 2011. The Agency simultaneously filed for confirmation of consent of relinquishment of the rights of Child’s putative father, J.H.; J.H. voluntarily relinquished his parental rights to Child on September 1, 2011. On May 25, 2011, the Agency petitioned for the involuntary termination of the parental rights of the presumptive father, J.B. The Agency sought termination of Mother’s rights under 23 Pa.C.S. §2511(a)(2), (5) and (8), and sought termination of the presumptive father’s rights under 23 Pa.C.S. §2511(a)(3). We will focus only on the petition filed regarding Mother’s rights, as only Mother has appealed our decree. The subsections cited by the Agency in the petition regarding Mother’s parental rights provide, in pertinent part:

 

(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 grounds:

 

(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.

 

(5) The child has been removed from the care of the parent by the court or under a voluntary agreement with an agency for a period of at least six months, the conditions which led to the removal or placement of the child continue to exist, the parent cannot or will not remedy those conditions within a reasonable period of time, the services or assistance reasonably available to the parent are not likely to remedy the conditions which led to the removal or placement of the child within a reasonable period of time and termination of the parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of the child.

 

(8) The child has been removed from the care of the parent by the court or under a voluntary agreement with an agency, 12 months or more have elapsed from the date of removal or placement, the conditions which led to the removal or placement of the child continue to exist and termination of parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of the child.

 

APPELLANT’S  STATEMENT  OF  ERRORS  COMPLAINED  OF  ON  APPEAL

 

Mother filed a Notice of Appeal on September 20, 2011. Her Concise Statement of Matters Complained of on Appeal followed shortly thereafter. We have reproduced that Concise Statement here, verbatim.

 

1. The trial court erroneously granted Bucks County Children & Youth’s (BCC&Y) petition to terminate the parental rights of natural mother as BCC&Y failed to prove incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal by natural mother case [sic] the child to be without essential parental care, control or subsistence necessary for the child’s physical or mental well being as required under § 2511(a)(2).

 

2. The trial court erroneously granted BCC&Y’s petition to terminate the parental rights of natural mother as BCC&Y failed to prove that mother could not or would not remedy the conditions which led to the removal of the child as required under § 2511(a)(5).

 

3. The trial court erroneously granted BCC&Y’s petition to terminate the parental rights of natural mother under §2511(a)(8) and 2511(b) in that BCC&Y failed to prove that he [sic] involuntary termination of the natural mother’s termination of [sic] parental rights would best serve

 

the needs and welfare of the child.

 

STANDARD  OF  REVIEW

 

 

Our duty, when considering a termination of parental rights petition, is twofold. We must determine whether the Agency, the party bearing the evidentiary burden, has demonstrated that the statutory grounds for termination of parental rights have been met.  Once we determine the Agency has met that burden, we must decide whether the termination of parental rights meets the best interests of the child. 23 Pa.C.S. §2511.

 

The Agency’s evidentiary burden, as the petitioning party, was to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that grounds existed to terminate Mother’s parental rights. In re Z.P., 994 A.2d 1108, 1116 (Pa. Super., 2010), citing, In re Adoption of A.C.H., 803 A.2d 224, 228 (Pa. Super., 2002); see also, In re C.P., 901 A.2d 516, 520 (Pa. Super., 2006). “The standard of clear and convincing evidence means testimony that is so clear, direct, weighty, and convincing as to enable the trier of fact to come to a clear conviction, without hesitation, of the truth of the precise facts in issue.”

 

In re Z.P., 994 A.2d at 1116, citing, In re. J.D.W.M., 810 A.2d 688, 690 (Pa.Super., 2002). Upon appeal, the appellate court’s “scope of review is broad and comprehensive, but [its] standard of review is narrow.” In re C.P., 901 A.2d at 520. The appellate court will only determine whether our findings, entitled to reasonable deference, are supported by competent evidence and whether we adequately considered the effect our decision would have upon the needs and welfare of the child. In re I.J., 972 A.2d 5, 8 (Pa. Super., 2009), quoting, In re S.D.T., Jr., 934 A.2d 703, 705-06 (Pa. Super., 2007).

 

The trial court, as the fact finder, determines witnesses’ credibility and is the “sole and final arbiter of all conflicts in the evidence.” Id. Absent an abuse of discretion, insufficient evidentiary support or an error of law, our decision must be upheld. In re Z.P., 994 A.2d at 1115. Our decision must be affirmed if our findings are supported by competent evidence, “even if the record could support an opposite result.”Id., at 1116.

 

DISCUSSION

 

By terminating a parent’s rights to her child, a court interferes with that parent’s basic constitutional right to raise her child in the manner in which she so chooses. In re J.W., 578 A.2d 952, 957 (Pa. Super., 1990) (“The custody, care, nurture, and instruction of children resides first in the children’s natural parents, as a constitutionally recognized fundamental right.”). A decision to terminate parental rights “is one of the most serious and severe steps a court can take, carrying with it great emotional impact for the parent and the child.” In re C.P., 901 A.2d at 520, citing, In re Bowman, 647 A.2d 217, 218-19 (Pa. Super., 1994). A court’s intrusion into the family structure is only warranted in exceptional circumstances and only when it is clearly necessary to intrude.

 

In re Matsock, 611 A.2d 737, 742 (Pa. Super., 1992), quoting, In re Adoption of Michael J.C., 473 A.2d 1021, 1026 (Pa. Super., 1984) and In Interest of C.M.E., 448 A.2d 59, 63 (Pa. Super., 1982). However, once a parent has demonstrated a “failure to fulfill his or her parental duties,” the parent’s basic constitutional right to parent her own child converts “to the child’s right to have proper parenting and fulfillment of his or her potential in a permanent, healthy, safe environment.” In re B.L.L., 702 A.2d 1007, 1013-14 (Pa.Super., 2001).Our initial focus in a termination hearing is upon the conduct of the parent when we consider the various avenues for termination of parental rights listed in §2511(a). Once we have determined that the parent’s conduct, or lack thereof, calls for termination of her parental rights under any of the §2511(a) subsections, we turn to “whether the termination will clearly promote the welfare of the child.”Id., at 1013. “Above all else in determining whether parental rights should be terminated, adequate consideration must be given to the needs and welfare of the child.” In re J.D.W.M., 810 A.2d 688, 690 (Pa.Super., 2002). Section 2511(b) instructs us to consider the impact the termination of parental rights will have on the welfare and needs of the child. We are to consider a number of factors, including the “nature and status of the parent-child bond,” the “importance of continuity of relationships to the child,” “whether a natural parental bond exists between child and parent, and whether termination would destroy an existing, necessary and beneficial relationship.”

 

In re I.J., 972 A.2d 5, 12 (Pa. Super., 2009), citing, In re K.Z.S., 946 A.2d 753, 760 (Pa. Super., 2008). We are also to consider other intangible factors, “such as love, comfort, security, and stability.” In re C.M.S., 884 A.2d 1284, 1287 (Pa.Super., 2005). The Agency filed for termination of Mother’s parental rights under three subsections of 2511(a): 2511(a)(2), (5) and (8). Pet., p. 2. Though the Agency argued that termination was appropriate under all three subsections, Mother’s parental rights could have been appropriately terminated if only one of those selected subsections was satisfied and we appropriately analyzed the 2511(b) considerations.

 

In re Z.P., 994 A.2d at 1117. The Agency was required to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the elements outlined in a particular selected subsection, reproduced above. Mother argues in her appeal that the Agency failed to prove selected elements of 2511(a)(2), (5) and (8), and thus that the Agency failed to fully satisfy any of the subsections that would allow for termination of Mother’s parental rights. We determined that Agency met its burden under all three subsections, and that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the Child under §2511(b). Section 2511(a)(2) requires the agency prove that Mother’s repeated and continued incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal to parent caused 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, etc., cannot or will not be remedied by the parent.

 

The Superior Court has held that grounds for termination of a parent’s rights “ ‘are not limited to affirmative misconduct’.” In re Z.P., 994 A.2d at 1117, quoting, In re A.L.D., 797 A.2d 326, 337 (Pa. Super., 2002). Section 2511(a)(2) “emphasizes the child’s present and future need for essential parental care, control or subsistence necessary for his physical or mental well-being.”Id., quoting, In re E.A.P., 994 A.2d 79, 82 (Pa. Super., 2008). Furthermore, this subsection has been read to assert “ ‘that when a parent has demonstrated a continued inability to conduct his . . . life in a fashion that would provide a safe environment for a child, whether that child is living with the parent or not, and the behavior of the parent is irremediable as supported by clear and convincing evidence, the termination of parental rights is justified’.” In re Z.P., 994 A.2d at 1118, quoting, In re Adoption of Michael J.C., 486 A.2d 371, 375 (Pa. Super., 1984).

 

The testimony presented to this Court over the span of two days highlighted a theme central to this case. It is clear to this Court that Mother either fails to understand or is unwilling to understand the seriousness of the issues raised by the Agency regarding Child’s care and future. Although the Agency and other Judges of this Court have repeatedly informed Mother that her paramour is a dangerous presence in her son’s life, Mother is unwilling to separate herself from Mr. V.  In fact, she seems more willing to separate herself from Child rather than forego her relationship with Mr. V. N.T., 8/10/11, p. 109; 9/1/11, pp. 18, 19. Even though Mother realizes the extent of Mr. V.’s criminal and dangerous behaviors, she refuses to disentangle her life from his. N.T., 8/10/11, pp. 71, 73, 75, 76. We are especially concerned with the violence present in the home Mother shares with Mr. V. Mother agreed that Child has witnessed Mr. V. being shot, and that Child has imitated Mother and Mr. V. physically fighting. N.T., 8/10/11, p. 133.

 

The Agency reported that Child has also witnessed Mr. V. hitting Mother. Bristol Township Police produced 42 pages worth of incidents, just inBristolTownship, between Mother and Mr. V. to which police responded. Mother’s relationship with Mr. V. is a violent one, and yet she continues to maintain a relationship with him. Mother has been under notice since Child came into care that Mr. V.’s presence in her life was a significant issue for the Agency. As mentioned above, in 2008 Judge Gibbons discussed Mr. V.’s dangerous tendencies and the potential consequences of her decision to maintain a relationship with him. The Honorable Robert J. Mellon informed Mother during a December 2009 dependency hearing that Mother was most likely going to have to choose between Child and Mr. V. N.T., 8/10/11, p. 118.

 

Mother has heard time and again from the Agency and from the Family andDependency Courtthat Mr. V. is a danger to her child. Unfortunately, Mother testified that Mr. V. is still her paramour and that they currently live together. N.T., 8/10/11, p. 76. Mother made no indication that she was planning on separating from Mr. V. at any point. At this time it is clear that Mother chose her relationship with Mr. V. over what relationship she might have with Child. Mother also acknowledged that she experiences mental health issues severe enough that they qualify her for disability benefits. N.T., 8/10/11, p. 77. Mother refused to take medication to treat her mental health issues and also declines to engage in therapy. Since Child came into care, Mother’s mental health has been evaluated three times by three different providers, all of which recommended treatment, and she has only attended a handful of therapy sessions, the last of which she attended earlier this year. N.T., 8/10/11, pp. 122, 123.

 

The Agency has provided Mother with services and referrals to other providers, but she did not take advantage of these services. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 16. Mr. Rush, the Agency caseworker, further testified that Mother never requested assistance to meet her goals that Agency could not provide. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 18. At the time of the evidentiary hearing, Mother was receiving no medication or any other mental health therapy, and she presented no testimony indicating she would be receiving any treatment any time in the near future. Since February 2008, Mother has maintained at least seven separate addresses. In February 2008, she and Mr. V. lived with Mr. V.’s mother onTulip StreetinPhiladelphia,Pennsylvania. In October 2009, Mother was living with Mr. V. onBall Cypress Lanein Levittown,Bucks County,Pennsylvania. In November 2009, however, she asked the Agency to send any mail to her at theTulip Streetaddress. By February 2010, Mother reported to the Agency that she was residing with Mr. V.’s family, location unknown to this Court, as the home in which she had been staying had been damaged by fire. In April 2010, Mother was renting a room in Croydon, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but was planning to move. By July 2010, Mother had moved to a one bedroom apartment in Croydon, this time with Mr. V., where she benefited from a no-lease, pay-as-you-go situation. January 1, 2011, Mother moved toStrahle StreetinPhiladelphiawith Mr. V. However, at the time of this evidentiary hearing, Mother was living with Mr. V. and his father inNew Jersey. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 15.

 

Mother acknowledged that one of her permanency plan goals was to acquire safe and stable housing that could accommodate Child, and she admitted that she had not yet met that goal. N.T., 8/10/11, pp. 110-112. Mother did not demonstrate an ability to secure appropriate housing for herself and Child in the two years since Child has been in care. Though Mother testified that she might have appropriate housing within the next few months, she presented no evidence that she is capable of doing that, financially or otherwise. Mother did not demonstrate to this Court that she is able to acquire stable housing suitable for herself and Child at any time in the foreseeable future.

 

The Agency took Child into care because of the violence and dangerous behavior, mostly on the part of Mr. V., present in Mother’s home, as well as Mother’s untreated mental health issues and housing instability. Though she is well aware of the Agency’s vehement disapproval of Mr. V.’s presence in Mother’s life, Mother continues to maintain her relationship with him and continues to reside with him. Mother is also well aware of Mr. V.’s deviant criminal history and his penchant for violence, for she herself has been victimized by Mr. V. Furthermore, Mother certainly realizes that she has untreated mental health issues, but she refuses to accept consistent medicinal or therapeutic treatment. Mother also demonstrated an inability to acquire or sustain stable housing appropriate for Child.

 

For the foregoing reasons, we found that the Agency met its burden under §2511(a)(2). We also concluded that the Agency had met its burden under §2511(a)(5) and (8), which we will now discuss. Child had been in the care of the Agency for nearly two years at the time of the evidentiary hearing in August and September 2011. Clearly, the Agency has met the time requirements of §2511(a)(5) and (8). A number of Mother’s permanency plan goals continued to be significant stumbling blocks at the time of the evidentiary hearing. Mother’s paramour Mr. V. still played a major part in her life, even though Mother was certainly aware and had acknowledged to this Court that she was aware that his presence was preventing the Child’s return. Although Mother had attempted to address her mental health issues, she did not maintain a treatment schedule. She has been evaluated three times by three different providers, but either declined therapy altogether or declined to continue receiving therapy. Mother confirmed that she has not had ongoing therapy, and that she has not received any mental health treatment since her last therapy session with Bucks County Mental Health Clinic in early 2011. N.T., 8/10/11, pp. 78, 123.

 

Mother’s housing also continued to be unstable. Mother testified to changing her address at least seven different times since February 2008. The Agency caseworker testified that none of these locations were appropriate for a child. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 15. At the time of the hearing, Mother was living with Mr. V. and his father in Mr. V.’s father’s home inNew Jersey. Though she testified that she could be in more appropriate housing within the next few months, nothing in Mother’s recent history suggested she would or could follow through, nor did she present a plan as to how she would acquire and maintain appropriate housing in the foreseeable. Mr. Rush, the Agency caseworker, testified that the Agency provided Mother with services and referrals in order to help her meet her objectives, and Mother confirmed that the Agency provided her with names of resources. N.T., 8/10/11, p. 105. Mr. Rush also testified that Mother never asked for any help that the Agency could not provide.

 

For almost two years, Mother was provided with the resources and services to help her meet her goals and regain custody of Child. Unfortunately, she has not succeeded, and no evidence was presented to suggest to this Court that additional time would result in Mother successfully reaching her objectives. As the Agency clearly fulfilled the statutory requirements for termination of parental rights outlined under §2511(a)(2), (5) and (8), we next embarked on an analysis of whether termination of Mother’s parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of Child. We are instructed by the case law to consider “whether a bond exists between child and parent, and whether termination would destroy an existing, necessary and beneficial relationship.” In re Z.P., 994 A.2d at 1121. We are not required to use expert testimony in this analysis, nor are we required to have a formal bonding evaluation completed.Id.Though Mother surely cares for her son, a “parent’s own feelings of love and affection for a child, alone, do not prevent termination of parental rights.”Id., citing, In re L.M., 923 A.2d 505, 512 (Pa. Super., 2007).

 

Mr. Rush testified that Child is very bonded to Grandparents, his foster parents. Child is affectionate toward Grandparents and they are equally affectionate toward Child. Child also enjoys a sibling relationship with Grandparents’ daughter, Christina, who is about 20 years old and lives in the home with Child and Grandparents. Grandparents have supported Child through his behavioral and emotional needs, as well as his medical needs, including the significant dental work Child required when he came to live in their home. Child also looks to Grandparents for guidance and comfort. N.T., 8/10/11, p. 49. Child lived with Grandparents for the first two years of his life, after which he moved out of the home with Mother but maintained significant contact with Grandparents. N.T., 8/10/11, pp. 62, 63. Since Child came into care, Mother had weekly supervised visits with Child. She attended these visits consistently for the first year, but in recent months, she missed about half of her visits. N.T., 9/1/11, p. 21.

 

Neither the Agency nor Mother presented evidence of a reciprocal, necessary and beneficial relationship existing between Mother and Child. This Court was struck by the importance placed upon Mr. V. by Mother, to the detriment of her relationship with Child. Though she understood that Mr. V.’s presence in her life and her home prevented the Agency from agreeing to return Child to Mother, she continued to rank her relationship with Mr. V. above that she might have had with Child. Child has lived with Grandparents for a significant portion of his life, and they provide him today with a stable home life free of violence and anxiety. Additionally, although Mother had notice of both hearing dates in this matter and the Agency offered to transport her to the hearings, Mother did not even bother to attend and only participated by telephone. We concluded that terminating Mother’s parental rights would best serve

 

Child’s needs and welfare, and would not sever an existing beneficial relationship or result in irreparable harm to Child.  Therefore, we found that the Agency met the requirements of §2511(b).

 

CONCLUSION

 

The Agency took Child into its care because of Mother’s dangerous relationship with Mr. V., her untreated mental health issues and her unstable housing situation. Mother demonstrated to this Court through her testimony and her previous actions or inactions that she essentially decided that her relationship with a dangerous, criminally minded man will take preference over her relationship with Child. Mother also made evident that she is unwilling to take charge of her mental health, even though she was provided with services and resources. Mother’s housing is still quite unstable, even two years after Child came into care. She also did not provide a plan as to how she would be able to acquire and maintain stable housing. In short Mother has not accomplished any of the goals of her permanency plan. Child has been living with Grandparents for two of his most recent years, but Grandparents have been a firm and constant presence in his life since birth. For all of the foregoing reasons, we granted the Agency’s petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother as to Child.

 

By the Court,

/s/James M. McMaster, J.

[Appealed to Superior Court.]

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