Articles Posted in Adoption

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In Rhode Island, family courts address many issues relating to families and children, including divorce, custody, child support, and adoption matters. Some of the most difficult and heart-wrenching issues addressed by family courts are proceedings initiated to terminate the parental rights of a natural parent. To terminate a parent’s rights, a family court must find by clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit to have rights over their child, and that the termination of such rights is in the best interest of the child. In a recently decided appeal, the Rhode Island Supreme Court discussed the requirements for termination of parental rights, and ultimately ruled that a father’s rights were properly terminated by a family court.

In the recently decided case, the respondent is the father of a minor child who had been placed in foster care shortly after her birth in 2014 because the parents were “red-flagged” by the state Department of Youth and Families for instances of abuse against other children in their care. Between 2014 and 2016, the Department instituted a plan for the respondent to demonstrate his fitness to safely and effectively parent his child in order to assume custody of the child. According to testimony from the termination proceedings, the respondent repeatedly refused to cooperate with the Department in formulating and following through on the reunification plan. The respondent would have some visitation with the child. However, he did not attend classes as requested by the Department, and he was repeatedly incarcerated for short periods of time and unable to attend to the reunification plan or visit the child.

After months of attempted reunification, the Department ultimately sought to terminate the respondent’s parental rights so that the child could be adopted into the foster home where she had lived most of her life. The Department argued that the respondent was unfit to parent the child as he was uncooperative with the Department plan and unable to keep himself out of jail long enough to have a relationship with his daughter. The Department also argued that the child was happy in her foster family and that they desired to adopt her into their home permanently if she was placed up for adoption.

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It has been five years since Rhode Island legalized same-sex marriage. However, many Rhode Island LGBTQ advocates feel that there are still other rights related to families and parenting that still need to be won. A big concern involves the way that parental rights are bestowed in the state and how that affects same-sex couples.

Reproductive Technology

Reproductive technology has come a long way in the last decade, and the law is having a hard time keeping up. Reproductive technology includes in vitro fertilization, donor sperm, intra uterine insemination and/or surrogacy. Many states have laws that address some aspects of reproductive technology. Rhode Island is one of the few states that has no laws that cover these issues. Continue reading →

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If you are considering adoption, one of the things that needs to happen is for the parental rights of the biological parent or parents to be terminated. In a step-parent adoption case, only one parent needs to give up their parental rights. However, sometimes the other biological parent does not consent to the adoption. In these cases, there are some scenarios where the court can terminate the rights of the other biological parent in order to allow the adoption petition to go through. If you are considering stepparent or another kind of adoption, you should contact a skilled Rhode Island adoption attorney to talk about your rights and options.

Facts of the Case

Here, the stepfather of two boys filed a petition to adopt them. Their biological father was incarcerated during these proceedings. He objected to the adoption by the stepfather so the children’s mother and stepfather moved to have his rights terminated. The mother of the children testified that the biological father of the children had not visited the children in over two years and had never paid child support. Even when he was not incarcerated, she testified, his presence in the children’s lives was rare. The biological father argued that he did at times see the children and provide gifts when he was able to. The boys – ages 14 and 15 – also testified that they rarely saw their biological father. They further testified that their stepfather had been a constant and positive presence in their lives for the last eight years and they wanted him to become their adoptive father. The family court found that terminating the biological father’s parental rights and allowing the stepparent adoption would be in the best interests of the children.

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There is a long history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people both adopting children, but also being discriminated against in the adoption process. Even though Rhode Island has a state law that prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation, they may suffer consequences if this law passes. If you are looking to adopt or foster a child in Rhode Island, you should contact a skilled Rhode Island family law attorney to help you with the process whether you are LGBTQ or not.

Proposed Amendment

This proposed amendment is part of a funding bill that the U.S. House Appropriations Committee passed. The amendment would withhold federal funding from states that “discriminate” against child welfare agencies that disallow LGBTQ foster care or adoption due to “sincerely held religious beliefs.” That means that if this bill passes, all states – including Rhode Island – will need to license religious child welfare agencies, even if they choose to deny LGBT individuals and couples the ability to work with their agencies.

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In 1995, the Rhode Island Supreme Court recognized for the first time the tort of negligent misrepresentation in the context of Rhode Island adoption law. Two parents alleged that their adoption agency misrepresented and omitted material information concerning the adopted child’s medical and family history. In an important decision, the state supreme court ruled that once it undertook to divulge the child’s health information, the agency assumed a duty to disclose all information regarding the child’s health, despite the lack of a statutory mandate to do so.

In 1981, the plaintiffs sought to adopt a child through Children’s Friend and Service (CFS). In 1982, the plaintiffs were informed by CFS that a child was available whom they might be interested in adopting. According to the plaintiffs, CFS negligently misrepresented and omitted material information regarding the child’s medical and family history. The child, who was 13 when the case came before the Rhode Island Supreme Court, was intellectually disabled and severely disturbed.

Plaintiffs asserted that they began to learn the true nature of their child’s biological family in 1991. The child’s biological mother had been diagnosed as possessing macrocephaly, pseudoepicanthal folds, a high-arched palate, tachycardia, small clinodactyly of the fifth fingers, tremors of the hands, and poor coordination. Plaintiffs alleged that all these conditions were known by CFS prior to the child’s adoption.

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Rhode Island family law allows for the termination of an individual’s parental rights under certain circumstances. In a recent case, a father (the respondent) appealed the Rhode Island Family Court’s decision to terminate his parental rights.

On November 19, 2013, the petitioners filed two adoption petitions in Family Court so that one petitioner might become the legal father of the other petitioner’s two children. The respondent, and legal father of the children at the time, was incarcerated in Massachusetts and refused to consent to the adoptions. As a result, petitioners moved to terminate respondent’s parental rights with respect to the two children. A trial was held before a Family Court justice on August 14, September 3, September 10, and December 15 of 2014. The trial justice ultimately terminated respondent’s parental rights. This past winter, the Rhode Island Supreme Court upheld the termination, holding that respondent abandoned his children.

The trial justice indicated that respondent’s lack of contact with and financial support for the children was “painfully evident,” noting that there was such a lack even when respondent was not incarcerated. Specifically, the justice found that respondent’s last contact with both children was on November 9, 2011, that he had never provided child support, and only sent occasional gifts.

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