After removing three children from the home of their mother, the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) petitioned to terminate the parental rights of the mother. The Rhode Island Family Court approved the petition, and the mother appealed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed the Family Court’s decision, which terminated the mother’s parental rights to her children. If you are concerned that your child or another child is being abused, you should contact the Rhode Island DCYF Child Abuse hotline at (800) 742-4453. If you are unjustly being investigated, your parental rights are in jeopardy, or you are seeking custody of a child you are concerned is being abused, you should contact an experienced Rhode Island child custody attorney as soon as possible.
Requirements for Termination of Parental Rights
The law recognizes that parents and children have a strong bond that should only be disturbed in extreme circumstances. The termination of parental rights can only be granted if the state supports its allegations of parental unfitness by clear and convincing evidence. In order to grant the termination, the state must also prove several things. First, DCYF has to show that the children have been out of the custody and care of their mother for at least 12 months. Second, DCYF needs to prove that they have made reasonable efforts to reunite the family, but despite these efforts, reunification would be inappropriate. Finally, the state must show that the termination is in the best interests of the children. Only once those elements have been proven can the judge grant the petition for termination.
Facts of the Case
In this case, the three children were removed from their mother due to positive drug screens at birth and other parenting and substance abuse issues. After DCYF got involved, they developed several parenting plans, but the mother would not cooperate and consistently failed to attend her appointments and visitations with the children. When she did attend the visits, DCYF workers noted that she was “not appropriate” with the children during the visits. The mother also failed to complete ordered substance abuse, mental health counseling, and parenting education programs. She also underwent two separate psychological evaluations, at which both doctors recommended further counseling and other mental health treatment. In her defense, the mother called witnesses to testify to her sobriety and parenting ability. The trial court granted the termination of rights and held that the requirements for termination were met.
Standards on Appeal
Once the family court has terminated a parent’s rights, the parent can appeal to the Supreme Court. However, the reviewing court can only overturn these decisions if the trial judge was “clearly wrong,” or they overlooked or misconstrued important evidence. Specifically, the mother argued that the trial judge erred by admitting both psychological evaluations, allowing testimony about a prior arrest, and declining to credit the mother’s compliance with DCYF’s plans. The Rhode Island Supreme Court sided with the trial court and held that the trial judge did not err materially, and the termination of parental rights was affirmed.
Contact an Experienced Rhode Island Family Law Attorney Today!
If you are being investigated by the Rhode Island DCYF, or if you believe that your child’s other parent is unfit, you should consult a skilled child custody attorney right away. The experienced attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC, can help you understand your rights and help preserve your family bonds while keeping your children safe. Call (401) 300-4055 or use the form on this website to contact us today for a free consultation.
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