Cambria County father loses rights

Court upholds ruling cutting man’s ties to four children

A Cambria County father who served a short prison sentence for beating his 2-month-old son in 2015 has now lost his parental rights to all four of his children, according to a ruling by the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

The Superior Court last week upheld an Oct. 12 decision by Cambria County Judge Patrick T. Kiniry terminating the father’s parental rights involving children ages 5, 4, 2 and 1.

The children have been placed in a foster home by Cambria County Children and Youth Services with a goal of being adopted.

Judge Gene Strassburger wrote the opinion and explained that the bonds the children have with their father, while present, are somewhat weak.

The bond between the father and the child who was beaten by the father is “not a parent-child bond,” the opinion said.

The three older children expressed a desire to remain with their foster family, calling their foster parents “mommy and daddy,” while the youngest, at age 1, is nonverbal, it stated.

An attorney representing the children reported they are doing well in foster care and “are bonding with their pre-adoptive foster family.”

With that as a background, the opinion stated, “the record confirms that it would best serve the needs and welfare of the children to terminate father’s parental rights involuntarily.”

The Cambria County child welfare agency became involved with the father and mother two months after their second child, a boy, was born in April 2015.

The father brought the child to the hospital because of swelling in a leg.

Doctors performed X-rays and discovered 14 bone fractures in various stages of healing.

The fractures were in his left leg, right leg, left arm and right arm and included five broken ribs.

The parents, when confronted with the findings, suggested the tot suffered from “brittle bone disease.”

During hearings in the case, Dr. Jennifer Wolford from the Child Advocacy Division of UPMC Child­ren’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, testified the child does not have bone disease and reported he has not suffered any bone fractures since being removed from the parents’ care.

Recent X-rays show the child had “good normal bones,” she reported.

In a footnote of the Superior Court opinion, it was reported the father entered a no contest plea last summer to charges of aggravated assault and was sentenced to six to 36 months in jail.

Due to credit for time served, he was paroled immediately.

The Children and Youth Services has now classified him as a perpetrator of abuse.

The father appealed Kiniry’s decision, contending the judge did not address how termination of his rights would impact the bond he had with the children.

He complained also that the court refused to appoint an expert witness for him to counter the Pittsburgh doctor’s opinion that brittle bone disease was not a factor in the child’s injuries.

The Superior Court upheld the county judge’s concern for the “health, safety and welfare” of the children as a reason for terminating the father’s rights.

It also pointed out there is no legal authority requiring the court to appoint an expert “to refute the opinions of an expert presented by CYS.”

The Superior Court concluded the father did not comply with reunification goals established by the agency, noting he failed to take his medication consistently and did not maintain a stable and clean home.

In 2016, he also was involved in a domestic violence incident.

The Superior Court opinion, joined by Judges Jack A. Panella and Carolyn H. Nichols, stated, “The record is clear that father is incapable of parenting the children safely, and he cannot or will not remedy his parental incapacity.”

The father was represented by Ebensburg attorney Timothy S. Burns.

The children’s mother did not appeal the termination of her parental rights and did not join with the father in his appeal.

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