Termination of Parental Rights
Termination of parental rights means that the court orders that the parent has no further ability to plan for the return of the child. Typically, a goal change to adoption hearing is held simultaneously with this hearing so that the child’s permanency goal may be changed.
Under the Adoption and Safe Families Act, the Agency must file a petition to terminate parental rights when the child has been in placement for fifteen (15) out of the most recent 22 months. Exceptions to this Act include: the child is being cared for by a relative; the Agency has documented in the case plan that there is a compelling reason that termination not occur; or family reunification is the goal and the agency has not provided the family of the child with the services deemed necessary for the child’s safe return. This exception must be requested at every review hearing, when appropriate, otherwise the petition to terminate parental rights must occur.
Parental rights may be terminated in one of two ways: voluntarily or involuntarily. In a voluntary termination of parental rights, the parent consents to relinquishing their rights to the child and for the child to be placed for adoption. There is still a legal proceeding which must occur. At that time the parent (or their legal counsel) confirms their consent. In an involuntary termination of parental rights, the parent is not in agreement with the petition and a formal hearing with testimony is held in Orphan’s Court to resolve the matter.
Should the Court order that termination of parental rights should occur; the parent has 30 days to appeal the Court’s decision to Superior Court. If no appeal is filed, the child will be legally free for adoption.