§4 ch26: Termination of Parental Rights (TPR)
26.5 Procedures for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights (TPR)
A plan for involuntary termination of parental rights may be appropriate when there is clear and convincing evidence that one or more of the specified legal grounds for filing a TPR exist in the case and termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child. When the Family Support Team determines that the child’s best interest would be served by pursuing involuntary termination of parental rights, the Family Children’s Service Worker should take the following steps:
- Review termination of parental rights statutes (Section 211.442 – 211.487) and determine if case information is consistent with TPR grounds for an involuntary action. In cases where the worker or supervisor are uncertain about whether there is a legal or factual basis for filing a TPR petition they should refer the case to the Division of Legal Services (DLS) for a legal consultation through the DLS referral process. DLS lawyers may also be available to staff these cases at the quarterly meeting with the circuit manager. CD workers should not be consulting the Juvenile Officer, Juvenile Officer’s attorney, the GAL or other private attorneys for legal advice.
- Advise the parents of such and explore with them the prospects of voluntary relinquishment of their rights. If the parent is represented by an attorney, the worker should not discuss this issue with the parent without first notifying the attorney and asking whether the attorney has any objection to the worker discussing the prospects of voluntary relinquishment of their rights. If the attorney has objections then the worker should work through the attorney. If the worker is represented by DLS the worker should request that the DLS attorney initiate this process. If the parent does not have an attorney the worker should refer the parent to the legal aid office which covers the area and to the Missouri Bar Lawyer’s Referral Service. Information on how to access these services is available on line at www.mobar.org, click on “Find a Lawyer.”
- Seek a staffing with local juvenile court officers to fully assess case prior to submitting a formal written request for involuntary termination of parental rights.
- If a staffing cannot be arranged, prepare a formal written request for involuntary termination of parental rights setting forth the basis for recommending termination of parental rights, pursuant to section 211.447, RSMo, i.e., abandonment, failure to rectify, recurrent acts of abuse along with any supportive documentation that may be on file.
- Notify parents in person, if possible, and by registered mail of Division’s recommendation to juvenile court to pursue involuntary termination of parental rights.
- Submit a written report in accordance with State and local juvenile court policy. The Family Children’s Service Worker should document:
- Efforts expended to identify and locate parents,
- Services provided to each parent, i.e., intensive in-home services, drug/alcohol assessment, counseling and/or group meetings, parent aid services, family and/or individual counseling, parent training;
- Response of parent(s) to services, i.e., did parent attend as required, did parent actively participate, has parent demonstrated improved abilities or skills as a result of services;
- Assessment of child’s needs, i.e., is continuing relationship with birth parent positive or negative for child, prospects for adoption; and
- Rationale for recommendation, i.e., even if given more time and more services, parents will not in foreseeable future be in position to assume care and custody of child.
- Receive written decision from juvenile officer regarding intent to file TPR petition:
Follow up with a letter requesting decision if written decision is not received within 30 calendar days.
NOTE: All Ordered Evaluations and Reports Shall be made available to the Court 15 Days Prior to the Dispositional Hearing or as Ordered by the Court.
- Assure DLS attorney is unavailable to file the TPR petition
- If juvenile officer declines to file petition for involuntary termination of parental rights, cases should be reviewed through supervisory channels. If an adoptive staffing has occurred, a family has been identified for the child, and there are no other competing petitions anticipated or filed, consult the family regarding their willingness to proceed with a petition for adoption and termination of parental rights. If it is determined the adoptive family will, through their attorney, file the petition for TPR and adoption, an Agreement for payment of Litigation Costs in Termination of Parental Rights Cases is appropriate. The worker will make contact with the central office Adoption Unit to initiate the request for an agreement.
- Continue services to family and child.
If petition for involuntary termination of parental rights is filed by the juvenile court, Division of Legal Services or the prospective adoptive parent(s) attorney, cooperate with local juvenile court requirements for interrogatories, depositions, appearances, testimony, etc.
NOTE: Pursuant to section 210.145, RSMo; “16 In any judicial proceeding involving the custody of a child the fact that a report may have been made pursuant to sections 210.109 to 210.183 shall not be admissible. However, nothing in this subsection shall prohibit the introduction of evidence from independent sources to support the allegations that may have caused a report to have been made.” This means that the fact that the Division has substantiated a hotline report is not admissible in evidence as grounds to support a TPR petition and it should not be a stated ground for filing a TPR petition. The statute, however, expressly permits the use of the underlying evidence to support the allegations which may have caused a report to have been made. This means, for example, that the fact that the division may have a substantiated finding that a parent sexually abused the child is not admissible to prove the child was sexually abused. It is proper, however, for the party to plead and introduce evidence on the fact that the child was sexually abused from independent evidence such as the child’s statements, witness testimony, medical evidence and evidence from the counselor or the therapist. This provision of the law is to limit harassment reports. However, as a result, staff may be denied the ability to enter some evidence. If this becomes an issue, staff may consult with DLS.
- Collect parental background information, i.e., ethnic/cultural/religious heritage, physical description, health, education, etc.
- Once case is concluded, obtain copy of any orders entered.
Outcome of TPR Hearing:
- Granted TPR: If the court grants TPR then CD must implement the Permanency Plan.
NOTE: If the decision of the court is to terminate the parents rights, it will be necessary to inform the parents of their right to consent to release of identifying information to the child, at age 21 and over, by filing an affidavit with the court which grants the adoption or to indicate their willingness for contact by the child, at age 21 or over, by registration with the Missouri Adoption Registry.
- If the Court denies the petition the worker should evaluate the reason the court had for the denial and take appropriate actions, including reevaluating the permanency plan for the child. The worker should promptly schedule an FST to determine an appropriate case plan. Such discussion in the FST should include evaluation of appropriateness of the concurrent plan. If the Court denies the petition and the child was in the custody of the Children’s Division, the Division may have the right to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court. The decision whether or not to file an appeal must be made in conjunction with the Circuit Manager and the Division of Legal Services. An appeal must be filed within thirty (30) days of the date of the Court’s judgement. DLS must prepare and submit a referral to the Attorney General’s Office. If the Division wishes to consider pursuing an appeal the Division must refer the matter to DLS no later than 10 days from the date of the entry of the courts order. If the appeal is not filed with the court in a timely manner the judgment becomes final and cannot be appealed further.
If the court assesses costs or attorney fees against the Division, in the Termination of Parental Rights case referral for payment must be made within 30 days. If there is a question about whether the court has the authority to assess the costs or attorney fees against the Division, or whether the amount charged to the Division is reasonable the worker should initiate a referral for legal advice to the Division of Legal Services (DLS). Court rules impose time limits on the ability of the Division to challenge such orders once they are entered. In most cases, challenges must be filed with the court within 30 days of the date of the entry of the Court’s order. The worker and the supervisor must therefore process such DLS referrals on an expedited basis.
- Granted TPR: If the court grants TPR then CD must implement the Permanency Plan.
- Supervisors are to consult and review with the Children’s Service Worker on a monthly basis regarding all cases that have not resulted in a permanent placement for a child, and in the case of infants, reviews, shall occur weekly. Narrative reports on the progress of care shall occur every 30 days until:
- Child is placed in an adoptive placement; or
- Custody is transferred to adoptive family including foster families.
- If costs are assessed by court order against the Division, payment must be processed.