Federal Guidelines for Terminating Parental Rights Often Violated in Arlington County

18 Feb

Arlington County CPS often fail to reunify families.  Instead they place and keep children in foster care the maximum time (to maximize money paid to psychologists, GALs, and the CPS itself), and then use their own failure to reunify the child with its family as a basis for terminating the parental rights of the parents.    Here are the guidelines that Arlington County is supposed to follow (but doesn’t) in order to receive federal funds from the US Department of Health and Human Services:

Termination of Parental Rights

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the fundamental liberty interest of natural parents in the care, custody, and management of their children. This protection does not disappear simply because they have not been model parents or have lost custody of a child temporarily.35Because the stakes are so high, TPR hearings are the most formal, longest, and frequently appealed of all child maltreatment proceedings. TPR hearings also may be called “permanent commitment,” “severance,” or “guardianship with the power to consent to adoption.”

Exhibit 4-1
Circumstances Under Which Reunification Is Not Attempted
ASFA provides that under some circumstances reunification should not be the goal:

  • A parent has aided, attempted, conspired, solicited, or committed the murder or voluntary manslaughter of another of his or her children;
  • A parent has committed a felony assault resulting in serious bodily injury to the child or another of the parent’s children;
  • A final decision is being made regarding an involuntary TPR to a sibling;
  • Other circumstances under which efforts to preserve or to reunify the family are inconsistent with the child’s permanency plan, which holds the child’s health and safety as paramount.33

Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

The grounds for TPR are specified in the statutes of each State, and CPS caseworkers are advised to familiarize themselves with these. ASFA requires that filing for TPR must be instituted when:

  • A child of any age has been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months, unless exceptions apply;
  • The child is an abandoned infant;
  • The parent has committed, aided, or attempted the murder or voluntary manslaughter of a sibling of the child;
  • The parent has committed a felony assault resulting in serious bodily injury to the child or a sibling of the child.

Most TPR proceedings arising from child abuse and neglect are initiated by CPS, but in some States, the GAL also can petition on the child’s behalf for TPR. ASFA requires that if anyone other than CPS files for TPR, CPS must join in the action.36

Ending the Legal Rights and Responsibilities of Parents

Biological parents whose parental rights are terminated as a result of child maltreatment have no right to have contact with the child, knowledge of the child’s whereabouts, pictures, or information regarding the child. In addition to losing legal rights to the child, parents whose rights have been terminated generally have no further responsibilities to the child, except to pay child support that is past due. Because of the seriousness and finality of the consequences, TPR has been called the “death penalty” of family law.

There are exceptions. Children who are old enough to remember and to know how to contact their parents may choose to do so. Some children are never adopted and remain in foster care; others are returned to foster care because of a disrupted adoption or because they were abused or neglected by an adoptive or other surrogate parent. In these situations, the original parents may be the best placement option if their circumstances have improved to the point that they pose less risk of harm to the children and if the children are older and better able to protect themselves.

Learn More:
Working with the Courts in Child Protection

Year Published: 2006


Part of a series of manuals designed to provide guidance on child protection practices, this manual explains court processes most relevant to child abuse and neglect cases. It introduces concepts and terminology associated with the courts, describes the key court processes, and presents practical information to help child protective services caseworkers prepare for court litigation. Specific chapters address: the general or common court system; the powers of the court and the rights of parents and children in child maltreatment cases; the interplay between child maltreatment legislation and caseworker practice; the juvenile court process; the criminal court process; domestic relations and …


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