Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation

Termination of Parental Rights Based on Deplorable Home Conditions

In the Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas Case in re P.D. & E.D., PICS Case No. 13-2688, the Honorable Joy Reynolds McCoy terminated the parental rights of mother and father as to their two young children after finding they repeatedly failed to improve deplorable home conditions and failed to follow through on social service agency recommendations and court orders.

Reports of deplorable home conditions led the Lycoming County Children and Youth Services to become involved with mother and father when E.D. was born.  The agency became involved again in early 2010 for the same reasons.  In early 2011, E.D. was removed from her parents’ home, adjudicated dependent a few months later and placed in her uncle and aunt’s home for approximately six months.

E.D. was returned to mother and father in October 2011 but was again removed in January 2012.  A few months later, the agency filed a dependency petition on P.D.’s behalf, again citing deplorable home conditions.  The court found “minimal compliance” by the parents with respect to a permanency plan and adjudicated P.D. dependent.  The court ordered E.D. to remain in the custody of her uncle and aunt but allowed P.D. to remain in the parents’ custody, subject to resolving home conditions.

Shortly thereafter, police responded to reports of domestic violence.  Mother moved out with P.D. and the agency found the conditions at mother’s new home were also deplorable.  Mother voluntarily placed P.D. with E.D. at their uncle and aunt’s house.

The court granted the agency’s petition to involuntarily terminate the parent’s rights as to E.D., and later as to P.D.

The court concluded that termination of the parent’s rights was appropriate under 23 Pa.C.S. §2511 (a)(1) because they “refused or failed to perform parental duties” for at least six months.  Both parents exhibited “inconsistencies in their ability to maintain an appropriate safe home” for the children and to follow through  with agency directives.  Although the parents at times worked to remedy the problems, the home was never consistently suitable.  The court agreed with testimony of the assigned caseworker and a licensed psychologist that there was little hope the parents would be able to provide a safe and suitable home.

The court also found termination was appropriate under 23 Pa.C.S. §2511 (a)(2) because the parents demonstrated a “repeated and continued incapacity, neglect or refusal” to provide the children with “essential parental care, control, or subsistence necessary for their physical and mental well-being.”  The court emphasized that E.D. was repeatedly removed from the home because of its condition and that E.D. suffered from trichotillomania as a result of exposure to domestic violence, the conditions in the home and repeated removal.

The court also considered whether termination would destroy an existing, necessary and beneficial bond between the children and parents.  The court found that a bond existed but that it was not beneficial t the children.  Although the parents maintained regular contact with the children while in placement, their needs were met by their uncle and aunt rather their parents.  The court declined to find the parents would ever develop a positive bond with the children because of their “inability to provide a consistent safe and stable life” for them.  Thus, termination would not destroy a relationship that was “necessary and beneficial” to E.D. and P.D.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly (October 15, 2013)

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