Should a Parent Whose Rights Have Been Terminated be Given a Second Chance?
By Judith A. Wells, the Law of Judith A. Wells, PC, LLO.
In August of 2012, I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) conference held in Chicago, IL. There was a wealth of knowledge and experience at this conference and I was able to participate many great sessions.
One session that had an impact on me was presented by Meredith L. Schalick, Clinical Associate Professor at Rutgers School of Law. Her presentation dealt with the restoration of a parent’s rights following termination. To learn that several states have already enacted laws that allow for the restoration of parental rights was very encouraging to me. It sounded wonderful and I was motivated to return to my jurisdiction to see what could be done to get input from professionals in the area and to try to get a similar law passed here.
But, after discussion with state senators, county attorneys, judges, and other juvenile law attorneys, I began to see this is a touchy issue. A few lawmakers argue parents and the children deserve a second change to be together. What better way than reinstatement of parental rights if the parent has made significant progress and changes to their lives.
Along that line, several states have passed statutes that allow children or their agencies (but not the parents) to file for the restoration of parental rights, if, after some years, the child has not been adopted. Thus, allowing for parents who have turned their lives around, the chance to legally reunite with children.
Yet others express a fear that a law reinstating parental rights could hurt children and send the wrong message to non-deserving parents. In the opinion of opponents, laws to reinstate parental rights encourage children and parents to hold on to false hopes that they will be reunited
Opponents also point out there are other avenues for parents whose rights have been terminated. For example, guardianship and open adoptions where the adoptive parents and biological parents enter into some type of voluntary visitation agreement.
Reinstatement of parental rights is a slowly growing legislative trend and since these are relatively new statutes it is too early to determine how often they have been used and the success of the same.
Do these parents and children deserve a second chance of a life together? When considering an answer to this question, there are many factors to consider, because of that one should not rush to a speedy answer.
“To get to the point of the termination of parental rights (TPR), you need to believe that a parent won’t change within the time required by the child’s needs and by federal timelines. Considering a reinstatement of parents’ rights requires that case professionals, agency leadership and social workers need to be open to a new view of the parent and believe that parents can change.” Mark*, Social Worker.
*Not true name.
Judith A. Wells represents parents and children through her law practice and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402 884 2777.