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Fostering and Terminating Parental Rights

A court in Texas has terminated the parental rights of the parents of an abandoned newborn baby girl. The baby, known as Chloe, was found in a plastic bag by a woman who was walking her dogs. Baby Chloe still had part of the umbilical cord attached when she was found, and was taken in by a foster family who now wish to adopt her.

What is termination of parental rights?

Biological parents are automatically bestowed with a set of rights concerning their natural child. These rights include the right to have custody of the child, and the right to make decisions concerning the child’s education, financial affairs, religion and medical wellbeing, and the right to visit the child if he or she is not in their custody. Termination of parental rights (TPR) is a process that takes place through the Family Court.

Under New York law, a petition for termination can be brought by a foster parent or an authorized agency, and must be based on one of five grounds:

  • Permanent neglect
  • Abandonment by the parents of the child for at least six months
  • The level of mental retardation of the parent prevents the parent from caring adequately for the child
  • Mental illness of the parent that prevents the parent from caring for the child
  • Repeated abuse

What can I expect if I file for termination?

If you are a foster parent wishing to adopt and are considering filing for TPR, it is important to know what to expect. Throughout the process, the overriding objective of the court is to determine the best interests of the child. After filing, the biological parents of the child must be served a copy of the petition and a summons to attend a hearing. If the parents cannot be located, the court may rule that the papers be published in lieu of service.

At the hearing, the judge hears evidence to determine whether any of the five grounds for termination are present. If the judge finds that at least one of the grounds has been proven, the court schedules a dispositional hearing and may order a site visit of your home — this is part of its evaluation of the best interests of the child.

At the dispositional hearing, the judge may dismiss the petition, suspend judgment for one year or order permanent termination, which facilitates adoption. Termination can be awarded even if the parents do not attend the hearings.

To learn more about fostering and adoption, get in touch with an experienced Nassau County adoption attorney.

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