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Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

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104821184-courtroomHow does a mother involuntarily terminate her parental rights?

A recent case of involuntarily termination of parental rights involves the removal and placement of a child into foster care after the Department of Household Services (DHS) received a report that the child was sexually abused by the father and the mother, suffering from drug addiction and depression issues, was unwilling to recognize the abuse.

DHS created a service plan with a goal of reunification, requiring that the mother maintain sobriety, participate in regular mental health treatment, learn parenting skills, and obtain regular visitation and contact with child. Under the condition that mother complies with the plan, only then would she be considered for reunification. After several years of mothers failure to comply with the majority of objectives in the service plan, the trial court granted DHS’s petition to change child’s permanency goal to adoption and involuntary terminate mother’s parental rights.

On appeal, mother fought the involuntary termination of parental rights and argued that DHS’ petition was unsupported in due to its failure to make reasonable efforts to assist mother with reunification and an insufficiency in proving that mother was incapable of providing a safe environment for child.

The court held that reasonable efforts by DHS were not a requirement for a trial court to involuntarily terminate parental rights, noting that DHS had, for the first four years, provided assistance to mother, and it was only after her failure to comply, that DHS changed the permanency goal to adoption. The court held that DHS was not required to provide services indefinitely. The court ruled that mother’s lack of compliance with the service plan goals indicated her inability or unwillingness to provide child essential needs. Furthermore, the court held that the trial court properly found that involuntary termination would be in the best interest of the child, noting the child bonded with foster mother and lacked a bond with natural mother.

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