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Mother’s rights terminated

Drug issues cited as reason behind ruling

A mother who used to live in Blair County has lost her parental rights because of her inability to deal with drug and mental health issues.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled last week that Judge Patrick T. Kiniry of Cambria County properly terminated the mother’s rights, indicating she “has shown the inability to acquire the skills to provide a stable and safe environment for the child.”

An opinion issued by Superior Court Judges Alice B. Dubow, Megan King and Correale F. Steven stated, “Our review of the record supports the (judge’s) findings.”

The case began in 2016 when the child was three months old and living with her mother and father in Blair County.

In April of that year, the parents were arrested for possession of illegal substances and endangering the welfare of a child.

A Blair County judge placed the child in emergency protective custody and the Juvenile Court found the child was “dependent.”

Blair County Children Youth & Families, the county child welfare agency, placed the infant with the paternal grandmother, and 11 months later, the child was returned to the parents after they participated in drug addiction therapies.

A month later, the paternal grandmother sought removal of the child from the parents, who had relapsed.

In a search of the grandparent’s home, police found marijuana, needles and spoons with a residue.

The child this time was placed with the maternal grandmother in Cambria County. The mother temporarily went to prison for a probation violation.

When the child was two and again living with the mother, Cambria County Children and Youth Services became involved because of the mother’s “neglectful parenting and failure to address mental health issues,” the Superior Court decision stated.

The Cambria County court established several goals for the mother, which included complying with substance abuse treatment, completing parenting classes and addressing her mental health issues.

The goal of the child welfare agencies remained reunification with the mother — until Aug. 24, 2020 — when the mother was once again incarcerated for allegedly stealing a car and assaulting a police officer.

At that point, the goal became termination of the mother’s rights and adoption.

Several experts, including a caseworker, a family resource specialist, a casework supervisor and a psychologist testified that the mother’s struggle with substance abuse and mental health issues prevented her from functioning as a parent.

The mother testified that she loved her daughter and wanted what was best for her.

However, when the Cambria judge terminated her parental rights, she took an appeal to the Superior Court, contending through Ebensburg attorney Theresa C. Homady that the judge abused his discretion and that the evidence presented against her was insufficient concerning her future ability to be a parent for the child.

Kiniry found the mother lacked a stable residence, had a history of substance abuse and failed to follow through with mental health treatment.

He also pointed out the mother was incarcerated multiple times, including during the termination hearing.

The mother contended the county judge should have delayed termination of her parental rights but, according to the Superior Court, the judge retorted: how long must a child wait for her parents to actively perform like parents?

He said the child is now five years old “with no progress on their part — only talk.”

The names of the parents were not mentioned in the Superior Court opinion.

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