Janet D. v. Carros

240 Pa. Super. 291, 362 A.2d 1060 (1976)

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Janet D. v. Carros

Pennsylvania Superior Court
240 Pa. Super. 291, 362 A.2d 1060 (1976)

Facts

Sixteen-year-old Janet D. (plaintiff) was in the custody of Child Welfare Services (CWS) after her adjudication as a deprived child, now known as a dependent child. Janet had an intellectual disability and the compulsion to run away. She was initially placed in the McIntyre Shelter, an unsecured facility. After Janet ran away from the McIntyre Shelter and was found, the juvenile court ordered CWS to find proper housing for Janet and to make arrangements to prevent Janet from running away. CWS returned Janet to the McIntyre Shelter. Thomas Carros (defendant), the director of CWS, instructed a CWS staff member to instruct the McIntyre Shelter staff to comply with the order and communicate with Janet’s social worker. The McIntyre Shelter employees passed Carros’s instructions along to each other, but no one followed the instructions. The McIntyre Shelter’s accommodations for Janet were limited to requiring Janet to wear a robe and pajamas and directing her to speak to a counselor when she felt compelled to run away. Janet did not seek counseling, and the counselor did not seek out Janet to provide counseling. Ten days after the order was entered, Janet’s attorney wrote to Carros, informing him that CWS had not complied with the court order. Afterwards, Janet ran away five times in the six weeks she lived at the McIntyre Shelter. One time she was violently attacked by other residents. The staff did not inform Janet’s social worker of the attack. Another time, Janet lived in the woods with no food for three days before she returned. Janet’s attorney filed a petition to show cause why Carros should not be held in contempt for not obeying the order. At the hearing, the McIntyre Shelter houseparents testified that they were untrained and unprepared to care for Janet and that they were not allowed to speak to Janet’s social worker. The houseparents’ supervisor testified that Janet needed treatment that the McIntyre Shelter could not provide. The court found that Carros was in contempt and fined him. Carros appealed on procedural grounds and on the grounds that the language of the order was unenforceable because it was ambiguous.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Spaeth, J.)

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