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No services where termination is the goal

Posted on Monday, May 14, 2018

Call it a pet peeve of mine, but it annoys me when the COA miscites case law. One such arena where this frequently occurs is child welfare law. Too many times, the COA miscites In re HRC for the proposition that services are not required if termination is the goal. That proposition is true only in aggravated circumstances cases. But oftentimes the COA cites that proposition when there are not aggravated circumstances, but apparently just as a way of bypassing DHS's obligation to make reasonable efforts to reunify the parent and child -- basically as a short cut to shut down the parent's argument on appeal that DHS failed to make reasonable efforts. So I was happy to read this morning an opinion that actually correctly cited In re HRC -- In re Mueller, issued March 18, 2014 (Docket 316861). No services were required because termination was the goal, but that was because it was an aggravated circumstances case (the parent failed to protect the child from serious sexual abuse) and in aggravated circumstances, parental rights can be terminated at the initial disposition. DHS is not obligated to make reasonable efforts to reunify in aggravated circumstances cases.

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