Rhode Island family courts are often placed in the difficult position of determining whether it is in the child’s best interests to place them in foster care or an adoptive home when the natural parent still desires a parent-child relationship with the child. At-risk children are usually first discovered by the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), which takes custody of the children and offers services to the parents to correct whatever situation led to the children being placed in the custody of the state. If a parent fails to correct their situation, DCYF may go to the courts and seek to terminate the parent’s parental rights. The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently addressed a natural father’s appeal from a family court ruling that terminated his rights to his daughter.
In the recently decided case, the Respondent is the natural father to a child born in October 2016. According to the court’s opinion, the child was taken into DCYF custody shortly after birth because of issues with both parents’ ability to care for her. Evidently, one of the mother’s previous children had died in an accident related to child neglect, and the father had apparent drug and alcohol problems, as well as a history of domestic violence.
After the DCYF took custody of the child, a reunification plan was put into place to allow the father to regain custody of the child. As part of the reunification plan, the father needed to attend several parenting and substance abuse classes and attend supervised visits with the daughter to introduce him to the child and help him with parenting skills.
Although the father substantially complied with some of the terms of the reunification plan, he ignored or abandoned other requirements. In addition to this, his lifestyle continued to suggest that he was an unfit parent in the eyes of DCYF. DCYF initiated proceedings to terminate the father’s parental rights on the grounds of child neglect. Shortly after the child’s second birthday, a trial was held on DCYF’s petition, and the trial judge found that the father had not corrected the problems that resulted in the child being taken away and that his failure to take accountability and seek to change his behavior made him an unfit parent. Because the child had been placed with extended family and had acclimated well to her new environment, the court decided to terminate the father’s parental rights, paving the way for the child to be adopted by her aunt and uncle.
The father appealed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, where the trial court judgment was affirmed. Notably, the high court found that while the father participated in some of the required programs, he was unable or unwilling to fully cooperate with the service providers or follow through with their recommendations. Additionally, the father failed to obtain a substance abuse evaluation, secure full-time employment, or obtain suitable housing as recommended. Agreeing with the trial court on these issues, the high court affirmed the decision to terminate the father’s parental rights, suggesting that it would be in the best interest of the child to remain permanently in the care of her paternal uncle and aunt through an adoption proceeding.
Do You Seek a Rhode Island Family Law Attorney?
If you or a loved one is seeking to adopt a child who was placed in your temporary care, or if you are facing neglect charges or termination proceedings, it is essential to have a qualified Rhode Island family law attorney by your side. The knowledgeable and compassionate family law attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo understand the factors that are most important to Rhode Island family courts in addressing child welfare issues, and with the advice and representation of one of our attorneys, you can be sure that the proper steps are taken to keep a child safe and in your care. Call us at 401-300-4055 to discuss your case and schedule a free consultation with a qualified Rhode Island family law attorney.