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Archive for the ‘termination of parental rights’ Category

A new case from Division III held recently that DSHS was required to provide bonding and attachment services to a  mother before her parental rights could be terminated.  The case also held that DSHS must prove that the mother was currently unfit, not that she had been unfit in the past.

The mother in In Re the Termination of SJ, No. 26179-4-III, had a history of drug use and provided an unsanitary home for her child, SJ.  When SJ was two, DSHS removed him from the mother’s care and placed him in foster care.

Per the dependency statute, before terminating parental rights, the court must make the following findings:

1.  The child has been found dependent;

2.  The court has entered a dispositional order;

3.  The child has been removed from the custody of the parent for at least six months;

4.  DSHS has offered the parent all necessary services, reasonably available, capable of correcting the parental deficiencies
within the foreseeable future;

5. There is little likelihood that conditions will be remedied so that the child can be returned to the parent in the future; and

6.  The continuation off the parent / child relationship clearly diminishes the child’s prospects for early integration
into a stable and permanent home.

The appellate court found that DSHS failed to prove factor number four.  While DSHS did provide the necessary services, it did so sequentially, rather than concurrently.  For example, once the mother “graduated” from her drug/alcohol treatment, she was then offered services designed to address her mental health issues, including her bi-polar disorder.

The court held that all such services should have been offered concurrently, rather than sequentially, citing a 2005 amendment to the dependency statute and reasoning that the delay in providing services may have been a factor in disrupting the once-solid bond
between mother and child.

The court also found that DSHS must prove the mother currently unfit.  An inference of current unfitness, based on past unfitness was not sufficient.

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