The work of administrative child protection agencies (colloquially called “Child Protective Services” but known as the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families in this state) can be some of the most difficult and emotionally taxing legal work imaginable. The DCYF is tasked with the difficult job of determining when a natural parent should lose their parental rights. The DCFY has additional responsibilities besides advocating for the termination of a parent’s rights. The DCYF takes a primary role in ensuring the safety of at-risk children while the process is ongoing, as well as finding a permanent placement for the adoption of the children after parental rights have been terminated.
The DCYF recently succeeded in denying a natural grandfather the opportunity for placement and adoption of his grandson, after the natural father was found to be an unsuitable caretaker. Based on criminal and civil investigations, the DCYF initiated proceedings by taking the minor child from his natural father’s custody and placing him in a temporary foster home. The child’s grandfather attempted to have the child placed with him, both temporarily, and on a permanent basis. Proceeding without an attorney, the grandfather attempted to apply with the DCYF to have the child placed with him, although he did not follow the exact procedures required to make the request, and it was denied.
Later, the natural father’s rights were definitively and permanently terminated, and the child was adopted to an unrelated family, against the grandfather’s objections. The grandfather appealed to a higher court to challenge the denial of his attempts to adopt the child, seeking a declaratory judgment that would affirm that he had been wronged by the DCYF. On appeal, the court found that the grandfather lost all basis to challenge any of the courts’ determination because the father lost his parental rights, and at that point, the grandfather had no rights to the child. This ruling was made in spite of the fact that the grandfather started requesting placement and adoption long before the father’s rights were terminated.