Areas of Practice

Family Law | Adoption

Before a child’s parental rights are to be terminated an authorized agency must both plead and prove that it has used diligent efforts in an attempt to reunite the child and the parent.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. The law provides that reasonable efforts by an agency to return its child to its home shall not be required where the parental rights of the parent to a sibling of such child has been involuntarily terminated. If the court determines that reasonable efforts are not required because of one (1) of the grounds set forth in this section, a permanency must be held of the finding of the court that such efforts are not required. At the permanency hearing, the court must determine the appropriateness of the permanency plan prepared by the social services official.

The Adoption and Safe Families Act has focused on the well-being and best interest of the child. Implicit in this focus is the shift away from the paramount of the biological parent. Contingency planning, i.e. return the child and if not possible, adoption has given a way to concurrent planning, i.e. the agency must work simultaneously towards a reunification to the parent and at the same time plan for permanency of the child through adoption.

Parental visitation should not be suspended except for the most compelling reasons. Some examples that require court intervention are:

  1. The physical abuse of the child at a visit;
  2. The psychological abuse of the child at a visit;
  3. A visit by a parent who is intoxicated or high on drugs;
  4. A serious detrimental effect on the child after a visit.

The authorized voluntarily agency should not unilaterally decide to seek a court order but must seek approval of the Commissioner of Social Services.

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