Judge’s ruling to remove mom from children garners support

A Blair County judge who placed three teenagers with the Children, Youth & Families — thereby removing them from the custody of their mother — has received support for his actions from the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

The case before Blair County Court Judge Timothy M. Sullivan involved a family in which the father is accused of sexually abusing two daughters, but not a son.

The mother of the children has not been accused of involvement in the sexual abuse, but questions were raised by the agency about her ability to protect her children from the father, who faces multiple criminal charges.

“The evidence supports the court’s order requiring, for the time being, supervised contact only between the mother and the children,” stated the Superior Court opinion.

“We agree with (Judge Sullivan’s) decision to proceed cautiously, and we find no abuse of discretion,” concluded the Superior Court opinion written by Judge Anne E. Lazarus.

According to Sullivan’s order issued last October placing the children under the custody of child welfare, the mother was concerned about the family’s financial viability if the father was sent to prison.

The mother also questioned the truthfulness of the oldest daughter concerning the alleged abuse, and she tended to downplay what the father might have done, the opinion stated.

The mother told her oldest child, who now is an adult, that the father was himself sexually abused, making the child think her mother was “pushing her to forgive” the father.

It was also revealed the mother continues a close relationship with the father, who is not living in the home.

As a result of the judge’s order, the children were removed from the custody of the mother and were placed with relatives.

The mother, through Hollidaysburg attorney Phillip O. Robertson, appealed Sullivan’s order to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

The appeal involved only two of the children because the oldest child has reached the age of 18 and is considered an adult.

As it now stands, a younger daughter and a son remain in placement, and the mother is permitted supervised visits only.

She claims that the court abused its power because the youngest child was not the victim of abuse. The mother argued he should not have been removed from her custody.

The Superior Court opinion cited Sullivan’s order in which he stated, “This case involves very serious sexual abuse allegations and related criminal charges against the father, which allegedly occurred within the family home, as well as serious concerns by the agency, service providers and this court as to mother’s protective capacity.”

Sullivan explained in his comments that he intended to “proceed carefully and cautiously, balancing our desire to maintain the relationship between the children and their mother, yet provide the necessary safeguards for the subject children.”

The Superior Court commented that the mother’s arguments against Sullivan’s ruling “miss the point.”

The child welfare agency had established the necessity of removal of the boy from his mother’s custody, according to the Superior Court.

As to the decision to permit only supervised visits between the mother and her two minor children, the appeals court concluded testimony in the case raised concerns about the mother’s conversations with the children in which she discussed information from the father, her shifting allegiances, and her attempts to have the oldest child forgive the father.

While Lazarus wrote the opinion, it was joined by Judge Mary P. Murray and James G. Colins.

The Superior Court does not release the names of parties involved in child welfare cases, referring to participants only by their initials.


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