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High court denies CYF’s appeal

Judge’s refusal to terminate mother’s rights upheld

A decision by a Blair County judge refusing to terminate a mother’s parental rights has been upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The state’s highest court on Friday denied a request by Blair County Children, Youth & Families that appealed a Sept. 5, 2019, ruling by Judge Wade A. Kagarise in which he denied terminating a mother’s parental rights.

Blair County’s child welfare agency took custody of the 2-month-old child after the father was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of a child for shaking the baby.

He was eventually sent to prison.

The mother was charged for failing to seek immediate medical help for the child.

The injured child was initially placed in foster care but has since been placed with the maternal grandmother.

After more than a year in placement with the grandmother, the agency filed a petition to terminate the mother’s parental rights, which would allow the child to be adopted.

One of the key issues in the case was the fact the mother’s criminal charges, after 15 months of the shaking incident, remained outstanding, and the agency, according to Kagarise’s opinion, felt it “was compelled to file a petition” for termination.

The agency also noted the mother still maintained contact with the father, did not have permanent housing and had not yet participated in a nonoffenders treatment program.

On the other hand, the Altoona attorney representing the mother, Tyler Rowles, pointed out the mother was “compliant with treatment recommended by CYF,” including the Circles of Security Program sponsored by Kids First and the United Way Parent Education Program.

She also engaged in drug and alcohol treatment, according to the mother’s attorney.

Kagarise in his opinion noted also there was no credible evidence of any drug abuse and no evidence the mother failed to maintain visits with the child.

He also noted that the mother’s criminal charges have been resolved.

The judge concluded that “evidence of a parent’s pending criminal charges, in itself, does not justify termination of parental rights.”

The Pennsylvania Superior Court in March upheld Kagarise’s decision.

The agency, through its attorney, Danielle Marie Donivan, requested review by the Supreme Court, which has been denied.

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