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Parents frequently contact me to inquire how the State was able to remove their child from their care and terminate their parental rights. Once the State has begun the process and become involved in the custody of your child, it is like trying to stop a fast moving locomotive.  The best course of action for young parents who are having difficulties caring for their children, is to contact a family law attorney to discuss other options available which better protect their rights before the State becomes involved.  Other options include:  temporary Voluntary Transfers for a set period of time where the child is placed with a friend or family member; temporary custody with a friend or family member; or guardianship where the child is placed in the care of another person during their minority until age 18.  I would be happy to discuss or explain these options to you.

The following is a portion of the opinion from the case:  State In The Interest Of C.P., in an unpublished opinion from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, on appeal from the 15th Judicial District Court for Lafayette Parish, No. JC2013-450.

Terri’s legal experience, mediation skills, past experience working with CASA, and experience as a parent and grandparent enable her to be a strong advocate for the rights of children, fathers rights, grandparents rights, custody or joint custody & child support.

The grounds for termination of parental rights are:

(5) Unless sooner permitted by the court, at least one year has elapsed since a child was removed from the parent’s custody pursuant to a court order; there has been no substantial parental compliance with a case plan for services which has been previously filed by the department and approved by the court as necessary for the safe return of the child; and despite earlier intervention, there is no reasonable expectation of significant improvement in the parent’s condition or conduct in the near future, considering the child’s age and his need for a safe, stable, and permanent home.

An appellate court’s review of a trial court’s conclusion regarding the termination of parental rights is pursuant to the manifest error standard of review. State ex rel. D.L.R., 08-1541 (La. 12/12/08), 998 So.2d 681. In a case involving the involuntary termination of parental rights, there are two separate interests involved: those of the parents and those of the child. Id. (citing State ex rel. K.G., 02-2886 (La. 3/18/03), 841 So.2d 759). A parent has a natural and fundamental liberty interest in the continuing companionship, care, custody, and management of their children’s lives which warrants great deference. Id. At odds with this interest of the parent, is the child’s profound interest in adoption into a home with proper parental care that provides secure, stable, long-term, and continuous relationships. Id.

The State’s parens patriae power allows intervention in the parent-child relationship only under serious circumstances, such as where the State seeks the permanent severance of that relationship in an involuntary termination proceeding. The fundamental purpose of involuntary termination proceedings is to provide the greatest possible protection to a child whose parents are unwilling or unable to provide adequate care for his physical, emotional, and mental health needs and adequate rearing by providing an expeditious judicial process for the termination of all parental rights and responsibilities and to achieve permanency and stability for the child. The focus of an involuntary termination proceeding is not whether the parent should be deprived of custody, but whether it would be in the best interest of the child for all legal relations with the parents to be terminated. [La.Child Code art. 1001] As such, the primary concern of the courts and the State remains to secure the best interest for the child, including termination of parental rights if justifiable grounds exist and are proven. Nonetheless, courts must proceed with care and caution as the permanent termination of the legal relationship existing between natural parents and the child is one of the most drastic actions the State can take against its citizens. The potential loss to the parent is grievous, perhaps more so than the loss of personal freedom caused by incarceration.

State ex rel. J.A., 99-2905, pp. 8-9 (La. 1/12/00), 752 So.2d 806, 811.

In order to establish the right to an involuntary termination of parental rights, the DCFS must establish two factors: (1) one of the eight statutory grounds for termination of parental rights under La.Ch.Code art. 1015 by clear and convincing evidence; and (2) that termination is in the best interest of the child. State ex. rel D.L.R., 998 So.2d 681.

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