by Max Brantley
It's tiresome, I know, to keep hearing about child welfare issues. But it's important. So another serving of spinach:
Here it's a state Court of Appeals decision reversing the termination of a father's parental rights. He'd been trying to establish a relationship with his child for years, but ran into state roadblocks. It's another child welfare case mishandled by the state Department of Human Services. Wrote the court:
Here, for reasons we cannot fathom, DHS did not make appellant a defendant for almost two years despite knowing of his putative fatherhood. And, to compound this grievous error, appellant’s parental rights were terminated without his ever being the subject of a case plan or receiving family services.
The state argued that it was "harmless error" that the father never was contacted. Judicially denied parenthood is a harmless error? It's all too reminiscent of the tut-tutting we heard about the state's airy dismissal of a petition to be a foster parent. The petitioner made the mistake of telling the state's foster parent recruiting partner that she wouldn't sign their anti-gay sexual practices oath. A mere coincidence that the state didn't respond to her interest, said state apologists.
Here, the state tried to blame the father for insufficient diligence, just as it tried to blame our potential foster parent for failing to follow up when the state DID NOT RESPOND TO HER WRITTEN REQUEST TO BE A FOSTER PARENT. Wrote the court:
Put bluntly, it is fundamentally unfair for a parent or putative parent to be denied legal participation in a proceeding that involves his child. The only thing more unfair would be to terminate parental rights without such notice and opportunity to participate, as occurred in this case.