In Pennsylvania, any number of circumstances can result in the involuntary termination of parental rights. Terminating a parent's rights to their children requires that the person/agency seeking to do so meet a heavy burden before a court, but this does not mean that the burden is insurmountable. A couple of common involuntary termination of parental rights cases are those initiated by an agency, such as Children, Youth, and Families (CYF), or by a custodian of a child for an adoption.
In cases in which CYF seeks to terminate parental rights, there would have previously been a determination that the child was dependent. This means that the child was without adequate parental supervision. For this to have happened, there will be an open case in juvenile court. These cases can remain open for quite some time, and the court's first goal will be reunification between the child and the parent(s). During the period of reunification, the court will impose requirements for the parents to meet to advance the goal of reunification. If the parents meet these goals, the court may terminate the child's placement with whomever the child has been living and the child will return to his or her parents. Where, however, the parents have not met the court's requirements satisfactorily, the court may change the goal from reunification to adoption. At that point, CYF will ask the court to terminate the parent(s) parental rights so that the child may be placed for adoption. The court considers a number of factors before terminating a parent's rights, such as whether the parent has repeatedly failed to provide for the child or assume parental responsibilities, and whether the parent is reasonably likely to remedy conditions that caused the child's removal of the child.
In cases where someone other than an agency wants to involuntarily terminate a parent's rights, there will not necessarily be an open juvenile case. These are often stepparent adoptions where the absent parent has not taken an active role in the child's life. In these instances, the person asking to have the rights terminated often relies on the parent's failure to perform parental duties for the six months preceding the filing of the petition. While this is a common ground to seek termination, any of the grounds shown in the statute, including the ones mentioned in the preceding paragraph, can be a basis for termination.
Involuntary termination of parental rights is a complicated process. Review our website and contact our office today to schedule a consultation if you have a termination of parental rights or adoption issue!
By: John M. Schaffranek, Esq.