DSS wants to terminate my parental rights. How can they do this? I’m her mother. My child needs me.
Termination of parental rights has often been referred to as the Family Court’s equivalent to the death penalty. Here in South Carolina, once a parent’s rights have been terminated, the parent ceases to exist in the life of the child. Forever. The child is then most often placed for adoption without any further consideration for the natural parents.
The court can terminate parental rights by presenting clear and convincing evidence at trial that termination is in the child’s best interests AND at least one of eleven statutory grounds for termination. The most common grounds I have encountered in South Carolina are paraphrased and simplified as follows:
(1) The child or another child residing in the parent’s home has been harmed, and because of the severity or repetition of the abuse or neglect, it is not reasonably likely that the home can be made safe within twelve months.
(2) The child has been removed from the parent and has been out of the home for a period of six months following the adoption of a placement plan, and the parent has not remedied the conditions which caused the removal.
(3) The child has lived outside the home of either parent for a period of six months, and during that time the parent has willfully failed to visit the child.
(4) The child has lived outside the home of either parent for a period of six months, and during that time the parent has willfully failed to support the child.
(5) The parent has a diagnosable condition unlikely to change within a reasonable time such as alcohol or drug addiction, mental deficiency, mental illness, or extreme physical incapacity, and the condition makes the parent unable or unlikely to provide minimally acceptable care of the child.
(7) The child has been abandoned.
(8) The child has been in foster care under the responsibility of the State for fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months.
Even if the court has already found that you have abused or neglected your child, a good attorney familiar with the law can help you avoid losing your child to adoption. If you find yourself in this position, you need an attorney who can guide you through your dealings with DSS system.