Father loses parental rights

Appeals court panel finds dad’s testimony ‘self-serving’

The father of a Blair County child has lost his parental rights because he had almost no contact with his young daughter for more than a year, according to a ruling Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

The state appeals court refused to overturn a decision by Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan who pointed out in his opinion, “Here, the record is devoid of any evidence of a parental bond between child and father.”

The father last saw his child when she was 2 months old.

She is now more than 16 months old.

In an opinion written by Superior Court Judge Mary P. Murray, it was noted that the child came to the attention of Blair County Children, Youth & Families caseworkers at birth because the mother was suffering from opiate withdrawal.

She admitted using Percocet for back pain, but denied habitual drug use.

According to the Superior Court, after being discharged from the hospital, the mother eluded attempts at contact by CYF caseworkers.

CYF was unable to contact her until November 2017, at which time she again tested positive for opiates.

The Blair child welfare agency also discovered there was a bench warrant for the father because of an unpaid fine for a traffic citation.

The father said he could not care for the child because he already was trying to take care of an ailing father and an elderly grandmother.

The child was placed with the maternal grandparents who have developed a bond with the child and a desire to adopt her.

The mother consented to adoption of the child.

The father, however, eventually contacted through Facebook, fought attempts to terminate his rights.

He claimed he spoke with the mother on a regular basis and stated the child “recognizes him, smiles and laughs when she hears his voice” during the parents’ Facebook communications.

He claimed he never visited the child due to bad relations with the maternal grandparents, and he stated CYF was “playing games” by attempting to pit him against the mother, who has regular visits with the child.

The Superior Court panel that reviewed the father’s appeal of Sullivan’s termination ruling found that the last time the father saw the child was the day she was taken into care and that the father repeatedly stated to CYF workers that he was not an appropriate placement resource for the child.

“Despite father’s insistence that he was involved in child’s life, and that he asked mother about child several times a week, (Sullivan) found the father’s testimony to be self-serving and not credible,” the Superior Court stated.

While both parents were unable to care for the child, she has been “in a safe and stable home environment with her maternal grandparents, who are able to care for her around the clock, where child may often visit with mother and other relatives.”

In conclusion, the appeals court cited Sullivan’s opinion, which stated the child is with family members who have provided “a loving, safe, secure and a stable environment.”

The child, Sullivan ruled, “has a loving attachment and bond with her maternal grandparents.”

He stated “in consideration of the child’s developmental, physical and emotional needs and welfare, we are satisfied that termination of parental rights of the parents, so that child may be adopted by the maternal grandparents, is in the child’s best interest and welfare.”

The father was represented in the appeal by Altoona attorney Brandon T. Ryan, while CYF was represented by Hollidaysburg attorney William R. Brenner.