Pennsylvania Court of Appeals Returns Daughter to Parents and Scolds Trial Court Judge

Image Source: ABA Journal

On April 6, 2016, a young girl — known only as N.M. in court documents — was extremely fussy, causing her concerned parents to bring her to the family’s pediatrician. The pediatrician diagnosed her as having an ear infection and prescribed an antibiotic. 

After leaving the pediatrician’s office, N.M.’s mother felt a “popping” on N.M.’s side and returned to the pediatrician’s office that same day, but the pediatrician told her that he couldn’t feel any popping and that N.M.’s fussiness was due to her ear infection.

The next morning, when N.M. continued to fuss, her father took her back to the pediatrician. When the pediatrician finally ordered an x-ray, the results showed that she had two broken ribs.  

N.M.’s life would never be the same.

Five days later, N.M. and her two-year-old brother E.M., were taken away from their parents and their home and placed in foster care based on allegations of physical abuse to N.M.  


The judge, Lyris Younge of the Philadelphia Family Court, made it extremely difficult for the parents of N.M. to be reunited with their daughter.

In December 2016, at a permanency review hearing, after the court acknowledged that N.M.’s parents had fully complied with the objectives ordered by the trial court, the judge continued to insist that N.M. remain in foster care and not be reunited with her parents or even her grandmother.

Younge explained that she would refuse to consider reuniting N.M. with her parents or grandmother since the doctor’s testimony “sealed any doubt, any variable that it could be anything but abuse.”

Further, Younge refused to allow expert medical reports that attempted to explain N.M.’s broken bones to be admitted even though she continued to ask for medical testimony, creating what the appeals court called, “an insurmountable barrier to their reunification with N.M.”

Judge Younge also refused to let N.M. be taken care of by her grandmother even though a social worker, Molly Mcneil, stated that DHS had approved N.M.’s grandmother as a willing kinship provider, stating, “If I leave her [in foster care] maybe I get closer to an answer as to what happened instead of moving her to grandmom … So, I’m not going to consider kinship care.”  

The judge also denied a request to have N.M. seen by an out-of-state physician.

On October 26, 2017, the court involuntarily terminated the parents’ rights to N.M.

The parents later appealed to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, which held that the trial court’s repeated refusal to consider placing N.M. with her grandmother was an “abuse of discretion and not supported by the record,” and ran counter to “the purpose of the Juvenile Act, to preserve the family unit.” The court accordingly reversed the trial court’s order.

The appeals court also reversed Younge’s refusal to allow N.M. to live with her grandmother, and vacated her decision to terminate the parental rights of N.M.’s parents.

In short, the appeals court noted in a footnote that, “the trial judge was and remains the cause of the deteriorated bond between Parents and N.M. in this matter. The record is replete with attempts by Parents to meet the goals set by the trial judge, however she continued to put up barriers to reunification.”


Read the entire article here: Appeals court criticizes ‘judicially created parental alienation’ in case of baby with broken ribs.

Here is a link to the court decision involving N.M., decided on May 4, 2018.  

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