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Posts Tagged ‘dependency hearing’

A recent termination of parental rights case affirmed the trial court’s conclusion that the mother’s progress towards correcting her parental deficiencies was too little, too late.

In Welfare of A.G., L.S. cause # 27659-7-III consolidated with cause # 27660-1-III, the trial court concluded that “there is little likelihood that conditions will be remedied so that A.G. or L.S. could be returned to their mother in the near future.”
Termination of parental rights is a two-step process. First, the state must show that it has established the six statutory requirements by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence. Second, once those factors have been established, the state must show by a preponderance of the evidence that termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child.

The six statutory factors are:

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. remedial services have been offered and/or provided;

5. there is little likelihood that the conditions will be remedied in the near future; and

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

The factors at issue in this case were numbers five and six. The court explained that “near future” depends on the age and circumstances of the child, but that a parent’s inability to correct their deficiencies within one year creates a rebuttable presumption that the conditions will not be remedied.
The appellate court held that the trial court’s factual findings supported its conclusion that the state had established elements five and six.

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A new case from the court of appeals, division II, In Re the Welfare of MG, # 36975-3, held that the initial involuntary foster-care placement of an Indian child per the Indian Child Welfare Act cannot be considered voluntary at a later date, even if the mother later agrees.

The purpose of the Indian Child Welfare Act is to prevent the break-up of Indian families by establishing minimum standards for the removal of Indian children from their homes. Different standards apply for involuntary removal versus voluntary placement.

In an involuntary proceeding, the tribe must be notified, the parents are entitled to appointed counsel, the state must offer remedial services to the parents, and the state must prove that failure to remove the child would result in serious physical or emotional damage to the child.

In a voluntary proceeding, however, the state need only ensure that the Indian parent is fully aware of the consequences of placing the child with others, and the parent can revoke permission in the future.

In this case, the mother had a serious problem with drug use. The child was born premature, underweight, and with symptoms of drug withdrawal. The mother signed an agreed dependency order, whereby the child could stay with the mother while the mother was in rehab., pending approval of the child’s medical care providers.

However, the child’s medical care provider did not approve because the child was too weak. The mother then attempted to revoke her consent. The court held that an agreed order of dependency was not a voluntary placement under ICWA.

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