Some children find themselves in the foster care system through no fault of their own. They are the victims of abuse and neglect. When biological parents are found to be an unfit option to provide for the care and nurture of these children, the Juvenile Court must decide whether to terminate this child’s ties to their biological family; i.e., Termination of Parental Rights (TPR).
Part of the Juvenile Court’s analysis in deciding whether TPR is the appropriate decision is a factor known as “no-viable-alternative.” The no-viable-alternative prong requires DHR to expend themselves looking for a blood relative who could be a suitable caregiver to the child.
Alabama Supreme Court Justice, Justice Stuart isn’t fond of this prong and, like all good authors, she clearly articulates what may have previously been a murky feeling:
“[Our current case law] suggests that the Department of Human Resources, before filing a termination-of-parental-rights petition, must prove any viable relative resource, no matter how long a child has been in foster care and, in my opinion, no matter how beneficial a child’s proposed permanent placement. With such an interpretation of the ‘no viable alternative’ prong of the test, the Court seems to have overlooked the ‘best interest of the child’ and mistakenly placed ‘family reunification’ in a position superior to ‘permanency for the child’ as a consideration in child-welfare cases. I assert that ‘family reunification’ and ‘permanency for the child’ stand on equal footing as considerations in child-welfare cases and that ‘the best interest of the child’ must always be paramount in cases involving child custody. (underline emphasis added)
“[In many situations] only the termination of parental rights and adoption promotes the best interest of the child and provides the permanence desperately needed by a child who, through no fault of his or her own, is placed into our foster-care system.
“So long as our child-protection system does not promote the best interest of our children, concerned parties with the best interest of the children at heart will continue to turn to the probate courts of our State in appropriate cases.” (underline emphasis added)
A.M.P., 997 So.2d 1008, 1024 (Ala. 2008)
Well said, Justice Stuart … well said.