Termination of Parental Rights: Other

Termination of Parental Rights: Other

In re JL v. Lee
483 Mich. 300, 770 N.W.2d 853 (Mich. 2009)

This case involves the termination of parental rights regarding an Indian child where the parent has fetal alcohol syndrome. The parent receives Social Security Disability due to FAS and parent received services to help her become an adequate parent that were tailored to her particular needs. These services included a wraparound program, parenting skills lessons, but she never seemed to learn. Her parental rights were terminated.

John R. v. Superior Court of the County of Riverside
2005 WL 2135247 (Cal. Ct. App. 2005)

Child was removed from parents due to concerns about the mother’s inability to care for the child and the father’s inability to protect child from neglect. The mother could not provide adequate care because she had FAS and other mental health problems. The court terminated father’s rights due to his inability to rectify, through counseling and other services, his failure to provide for the child’s basic needs, his violent tendencies, his failure to understand the severity of the mother’s illness and his interference with mother’s psychological treatment. Father often left child with mother and in one such case the child was injured and in another child was allowed to wander the streets alone, wearing only a diaper.

In the Matter of Danielle Smith
128 Misc. 2d 976, 492 N.Y.S. 2d (N.Y. Family Ct. 1985)

The county Department of Social Services brought this action to have Danielle Smith declared a "neglected child." This apparently was a first step toward removing the child, at least temporarily, from the custody of her mother. The action was based solely upon the  prenatal conduct of the mother.

During her pregnancy the mother drank 10 alcoholic beverages on an average of 3 or 4 days a week.

The Department urged, first, that Danielle was a neglected child because her mother's drinking had actually caused FAS. The court concluded that there was insufficient evidence that the child actually had FAS.

The Department also argued that Danielle was a neglected child simply because her mother's drinking had created a   risk   of FAS. The court agreed.

"Although the proof in the instant proceeding is insufficient to establish that the [mother's] abuse of alcohol, during pregnancy, actually caused fetal alcohol syndrome at the time of birth, the Court, nevertheless, holds that such proof was sufficient to establish 'imminent danger' of impairment of physical condition, including the possibility of fetal alcohol syndrome, to the unborn child."

492 N.Y.S. 2d at 334. Under state law creating an imminent danger of impairment was sufficient to support a finding of child neglect.

The court also held that the fetus was a "person" within the meaning of the state Family Court Act.

Toni D. v. Superior Court
2002 WL 1943651 (Cal. App. 5 Dist.)

The county department of social services filed a dependency petition, alleging that the mother (Toni D.) had been guilty of physical abuse of a child because she drank while she was pregnant with C.W.

The child was born prematurely at 26 weeks, and required oxygen and a feeding tube. A neurologist present at the birth testified that the child had a small head, which was a "direct indicator" that the child had an underdeveloped brain. The neurologist in turn attributed this to FAS. The mother had consumed two quarts of beer daily during her pregnancy, as well as using other drugs.

Under the statute relied on by the county, it was required to show that physical injury was caused by a "single act of abuse." The court held that this standard could not be met, because it was "the cumulative effects" of alcohol use, not a single drink, that had interfered with the development of C.W.'s brain.

The court suggested the county might be able to proceed under a different state statute.

Diagnosing FAS based solely on the size of a child's head, even given a mother's history of alcohol abuse, is not consistent with current medical practice.

In re Valerie D.
223 Conn. 492, 613 A. 2d 748 (1992)

A state agency sought to terminate the parental rights of a mother because she had used cocaine shortly before giving birth. The state Supreme Court holds that Connecticut law does not authorize termination of parental rights ont hat basis.

The state's argument was that prenatal use of cocaine fell within the statute authorizing termination of parental rights for causing "serious physical injury" to the child. The state conceded that on its interpretation of state law termination of parental rights would be warranted if a mother drank alcohol.

"[A]s [the state] conceded in oral argument in this court, the same reading of [the state statute] that the [state] would have us adopt would permit the [state] to seek termination of the parental rights of a mother who drank alcohol excessively during her pregnancy and delivered a baby suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome. . . . [S]uch prenatal conduct is harmful to the fetus in the womb and the child upon its birth. . . . [W]e do not believe that the legislature intended the statute as currently drafted to have such sweeping consequences."

223 Conn. at 525

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