“[T]he foster mother would not commit to another custodial arrangement other than adoption”
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals is making it clear – again. If we want children to find permanency through adoption, we need to engage the foster parents in the TPR trial. The case of K.W. v. Lee County DHR, CL-2022-1116 (Ala. Civ. App July 7, 2023) from the Civs makes this point crystal clear.
If you are a foster parent, it might seem like you don’t have much control over the process. That’s not true. There are lots of options on the table.
(1) Share this article with your case worker and ask if they intend to call you to the stand to testify at trial,
(2) Speak with the DHR Attorney, share this article, and ask if they intend to call you to the stand at trial (Yes, you can speak with the DHR attorney. Just call his/her office and ask to speak with them).
(3) Hire a competent attorney, intervene in the TPR trial as a party to assert your position for your child’s best interest.
We work with foster parents across the state from Madison County to Mobile County. We would love to help you navigate this sometimes treacherous journey for your limitlessly valuable child.
K.W. v. Lee County DHR, CL-2022-1116 (Ala. Civ. App July 7, 2023), is an opinion written by Judge Moore. This case illustrates the importance of calling the foster parent to the stand to testify about the child’s best interest and the foster parent’s desire to adopt the child.
[The child’s foster mother testified that the child did not want to even visit with the mother due to the severe anxiety she was experiencing over her custody situation. The testimony of the CASA volunteer and the foster mother established that the child wanted to be adopted by the foster parents and that they were ready, willing, and able to be adoptive resources.
This case also raised the issue of whether maintaining the status quo of a child in foster care was a viable alternative to TPR. The natural father argued that
the juvenile court could have maintained the status quo by leaving the child in foster care until he served the remainder of his sentence and was able to resume his relationship with the child.
In response to the father’s argument, the Civs immediately remind us that
As a general rule, leaving a child in foster care is not a viable alternative to termination of parental rights. See T.W. v. Calhoun Cnty. Dep’t of Hum. Res., [Ms. CL-2022-0694, June 2, 2023] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2023).
The Civs found no reason to make an exception to that rule in this case. The Civs go through several factors that are rooted in a case by the name of B.A.M. v. Cullman Cnty. Dep’t of Hum. Res., 150 So. 3d 782, 786 (Ala. Civ. App. 2014), which discusses the different analysis for a child with special needs and no identifiable adoptive resource.
In this case, the child clearly needs permanency, but she has no special needs that would impede her adoptability, she has a definite adoptive resource with whom she shares concrete plans to make her “forever family,” and
Perhaps most importantly
[T]he foster mother would not commit to another custodial arrangement other than adoption, which she considered to be the only custodial alternative that would provide the child the full relief she needed.
The Civs were so firm about this position, that it laid out all the evidence in favor of the father, viewed in the light most favorable to the father, and determined that even this didn’t sway their analysis.
Arguably, the father and the child do share a bond. The testimony showed that the child enjoyed her visits with the father and that the telephone communication between the two of them had been positive. The child inquired about continuing at least the telephone calls in March 2022 and even expressed some hope that she could stay in contact with the father after adoption.
At the end of the day, the Civs pronounced one of the strongest positions I’ve ever seen them take.
[T]he shared love between a parent and a child is not enough to forestall termination of parental rights when that remedy serves the best interests of the child.
As a result, this young lady gets to experience the mercy of TPR and adoption.