Termination of Parental Rights
Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families
Policy: 1100.0020
Effective Date: December 18, 1984
Revised Date:  January 22, 2002
Version:  2
The federal Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (PL 96-272) and Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (PL 105-89) and Rhode Island General Law (RIGL 40-11 and 42-72) require the Department to make reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for placement of a child outside the home, as long as the child’s safety is assured; to effect the safe reunification of the child and family, if out of home placement is necessary; and to make and finalize alternate permanency plans in a timely manner when reunification is not appropriate or possible.  The child’s health and safety is the State’s paramount concern.
In most cases, reasonable efforts must be made by the Department prior to the filing of the petition to encourage and strengthen the parental relationship so that the child can safely return to the family.  Services are provided to the birth parent(s) of a child in an effort to assist the parent, the child, and the Department in determining the best permanent plan for the child.  If services do not result in the reunification of a child with his or her family, the agency has the responsibility to consider adoption or some other permanent plan for the child.
When a child has been in the care of the Department for twelve months, a permanency hearing must be held in the Family Court to address whether the Department has made reasonable efforts toward permanency.  The child’s caseworker, in preparation for that hearing, should consider numerous factors including, but not limited to, the progress made by the parents; whether appropriate services were offered, received or provided; the likelihood of safe reunification in the near future; and the child’s best interests.  Best interests may be evaluated by considering the child’s relationship with the parents and the foster family; physical, psychological, intellectual and emotional needs; and any other special needs of the child.  These hearings serve as important mileposts in determining whether a TPR petition needs to be filed.  Following the granting of termination of parental rights, a permanency hearing must be held within thirty days to address and review the permanency plan for the child.
If the agency determines that adoption is the best plan for the child and the parent agrees, the parent can voluntarily terminate parental rights or directly consent to adoption.  If the parent is unwilling to relinquish parental rights, the Department must act expeditiously to petition the Court for involuntary termination.
Those persons having a legal relationship with the minor child are the mother, the natural father, and/or the legal father.  The natural father is the biological father. The legal father is the man married to the mother at the time of the child's conception or birth or the man who has otherwise been determined to be the father by a court of competent jurisdiction.  To determine the biological and/or legal father, all marriages and divorces should be verified through the Bureau of Vital Statistics in the state in which the marriage or divorce occurred.
The Department is obligated to attempt, through reasonable efforts, to provide services to involve the natural father with his child.  If he cannot be contacted directly by the agency, the natural father has the right to be notified of his child's adoption through legal service or advertisement and his parental rights must be terminated before the child is eligible for adoption.  If the mother cannot or will not identify the natural father, the Court, after taking testimony of the mother may give notice to all parties in interest through appropriate newspaper advertisement.
One of the Department’s most important roles is to work towards a safe, nurturing permanent home for each child in its care.  Failure to adhere to statutory procedures and time frames for permanency may be detrimental to a child’s overall welfare.
In accordance with RIGL 15-7-7, the Department or a licensed child placing agency must petition the Family Court for the termination of parental rights.  The Court shall, after notice to the parent and a hearing on the petition, terminate any and all legal rights of the parent(s) to the child, including the right to notice of any subsequent adoption proceedings involving the child, if the Court finds as a fact by clear and convincing evidence that:
Once the petition is filed, the Department is no longer obligated to make reasonable efforts to strengthen the parental relationship. The parent can continue to exercise his/her right to visit with the child in accordance with the current visitation plan.  The Department must motion the Court for approval to alter the visitation plan.  The agency has an affirmative duty to identify, recruit, process and approve a qualified family for adoption or other permanent living arrangement for the child.
In considering the termination of rights, the Court gives primary consideration to the physical, psychological, mental, and intellectual needs of the child.
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