Court: Termination of parents’ rights proper

All four children reported being happy in new homes

Nine months ago, the Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated a decision by a Blair County judge to terminate the parental rights of a Blair County mother and father who were having difficulty providing a stable home for four children.

The appeals court wanted to know how the children felt about being adopted by foster parents and that they may have little or no future contact with their mother and the mother’s present husband, who is the father to two of her children.

The original decision to terminate the parental rights of the mother and father was made by Judge Jolene G. Kopriva, who since her initial decision in

July 19, 2017, has become a senior judge.

When the case was returned to Blair County last June, it was assigned to Judge Timothy Sullivan, who took immediate steps to carry out the Superior Court’s mandate.

After appointing Susan Rea of Hollidaysburg as attorney for the children, ages 9, 7, 6, and 4 and reviewing her report, he reinstated the termination order, pointing out the children, while loving their mother and father, were content with their foster homes and with the idea of adoption.

The 9-year-old stated he “very much likes where he is and he looks forward to being part of her (foster mother’s) family.”

The 7-year-old confirmed she was “happy in her current placement,” and the 6-year-old and 4-year-old expressed the desire to remain in their “forever home.”

Sullivan ruled that because of the feelings of the children, there was no need for further hearing in the case and he reinstated the termination order.

The parents once again appealed the order to the Superior Court, and last Friday the appeals court affirmed Sullivan’s decision.

The case involved a mother who herself came from a disfunctional home and became a mother as a minor.

She had two children to her teenage boyfriend and came to the attention of Blair County Children, Youth & Families during her oldest child’s first year when “the instability and chaos (of her home) reached a crescendo.”

As the mother’s family grew, so did the problems, and in 2013 the child welfare agency again stepped in when her two young children ingested near fatal doses of medication in the home.

Despite that incident, Blair’s child welfare agency maintained reunification with the mother as a goal.

The problems providing a stable home continued as the mother had two children to another man.

The father of her two youngest children eventually moved out of state.

The Superior Court opinion issued by Judges Susan P. Gantman, John Bender and Judith F. Olson stated the parents “claim that they had remedied the conditions that led to the placement of the children. … After careful review, however, we discern that the record belies these claims.”

The appeals court quoted from Sullivan’s opinion that reported since 2011, four shelter care petitions have been approved by local judges, providing “evidence of lack of parenting capacities that result in ongoing danger and threats to the welfare of these young children.”

The higher court reviewed testimony from a therapist for the mother, reunification specialists from Blair County Family Intervention Crisis Services and a supervisor with Children, Youth & Families.

“We deem the court’s decision to terminate the parental rights of mother and father … to be well supported by the record,” the opinion stated.

The mother and father insisted they have a strong bond with the children, and the Superior Court pointed out Sullivan recognized the existence of that bond, but it supported the judge’s decision that the “need for permanency and consistency outweighed any attachment children have with mother and father.”

The judges said also the father, by moving out of state while making no reasonable arrangements to maintain a bond with his children, “abandoned them to meet his own needs.”