Family Law

Custody • Parenting Skills • Sex Offender

In the Interest of M.Y., Jr., PICS Case No. 14-0368 (C.P. Berks Feb. 14, 2014) Keller, J. (10 pages).

This appeal stemmed from the involuntary termination of the parental rights of R.J. and T.J. The lower court is affirmed.

T.J. is the biological mother of the children, R.J. is the biological father of T.J. and stepfather of M.Y., Jr. The children were placed in the custody of the Berks County Children and Youth Services more than six months prior to the proceedings. BCCYS’ involvement with the family began in January 2013 when the agency received a report that the mother and M.Y., Jr. were residing with the father, a registered sex offender. BCCYS also reported concerns of inadequate parenting skills. As the father refused to leave the premises pending a sex offender evaluation, BCCYS obtained an emergency removal order of M.Y., Jr. Mother subsequently gave birth to T.J. whom BCCYS petitioned and received emergency custody. The parents were required to comply with several orders in an effort toward reunification.

The parents were present during the December 9, 2013 involuntary termination proceedings where BCCYS alleged they failed to substantially cooperate with any of the court-ordered services, including father’s failure to complete sex offender treatment and mother’s failure to cooperate with the non-offending parent evaluation. The court found that the facts alleged in the BCCYS’ petitions were established by clear and convincing evidence, and therefore terminated the parental rights.

Parents appealed arguing the trial court erred in terminating the rights based on the evidence provided, erred in holding the hearing as several appeals were pending, and erred in terminating rights based on the father’s criminal history and registration status under Megan’s Law.

The appellate court applied a two prong test when determining whether parental rights should be terminated: (1) clear and convincing evidence that the parent’s conduct satisfies the statutory grounds for termination, and (2) the needs and welfare of the child under the best interest standards. The court found the first prong satisfied based on the father’s lengthy history of sexual offenses against children, his failure to cooperate with treatment, and the mother’s inability to recognize the risk the father poses.

After reviewing the testimony and considering the exhibits, the court had no doubt that the termination of parental rights served the best interests of the children. The court noted that it did not think the parents were able to safely provide for the children’s needs and that the children were bonding with the foster family. Further, the court concluded the minor children would suffer no detriment from permanently severing their connection to the parents and that the second prong had been fulfilled. Therefore, the court upheld the lower court’s termination of parental rights.