Termination of parental rights is a serious outcome in a CPS case. Following termination, the parent and child no longer have a legal relationship. Conversely, terminating parental rights is a prerequisite to adoption and broadens the array of permanency outcomes available to the child.
Whether termination is voluntary or involuntary, it is weighed seriously for each parent and child. In general, if DFPS pursues termination, it does so on both parents.
In rare circumstances, after conferring with the attorney representing DFPS, DFPS may determine that termination on only one parent is appropriate because one parent is such a danger to the health and safety of the child that legal avenues to the child must be closed.
In assessing best interest, caseworkers always bear in mind the emotional effect that termination may have on a child.
Federal law requires that DFPS request termination of parental rights if a child has been in foster care for 15 of the last 22 months, unless certain exceptions apply.
In most counties, DFPS requests termination of parental rights as an alternative in the original petition filed at the time of removal. This puts the parents on notice from the beginning of the case that if the problems that lead to removal are not resolved, DFPS may ask the court to terminate parental rights.
Ultimately, if the parent’s performance in establishing a safe home for the child is inadequate, DFPS may consider asking the court to set a final hearing at which DFPS seeks termination of parental rights.