As family structures change, so do the way in which we determine what may be in the best interests of a child. In dependency and neglect (D&N) proceedings, which can lead to the termination of parental rights, courts consider many factors and take evidence from many sources. With this opinion, the Court holds that foster parents of a child in the middle of a D&N proceeding can fully participate in such hearings, so long as they meet the requirements for intervention in CRS 19-3-507. A parent’s due process rights at a hearing are preserved by ensuring notice and using higher evidentiary standards. Full foster parent participation still provides the parental protections in Mathews v. Eldridge. Here, foster parents properly gave opening and closing statements, cross-examined witnesses, raised objections, and fully participated in the termination hearing without limitation.
http://www.courts.state.co.us/userfiles/file/Court_Probation/Supreme_Court/Opinions/2011/11SC53.pdf [Opinion modified, and as modified, Petition for Rehearing DENIED (March 18, 2013).]
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” This statement is a sad reality when attempting to rehabilitate parents before terminating their parental rights. In this case, a child enrolled in the Cherokee Nation was adjudicated dependent and neglected and removed from the mother’s care. The trial court entered a treatment plan for Father, who was addicted to drugs. Father was provided with substance abuse services and treatment, parenting education, supervised visits, and other help—all to no avail. Three years later, Father’s parental rights were terminated. On appeal, Father argued that “active efforts” were not made to rehabilitate him as required by the Indian Child Welfare Act. The court of appeals upheld the termination, and noted the Act does not require expert testimony to support a finding that active efforts were made and were later unsuccessful.
In what may be the shortest court of appeals decision ever published, this sixteen-line opinion dismisses an appeal from an order adjudicating a child dependent and neglected, but which did not terminate parental rights. The trial court has not yet held a termination hearing, which, when termination is proposed, is also a dispositional hearing. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal without prejudice for lack of a final order, holding the matter was not ripe for review until after the termination hearing is held.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was enacted to address a history of “wholesale removal of Indian children from their homes.” It places minimum federal standards on state proceedings involving an Indian child. In this case, Colorado sought to terminate the parental rights of an Indian mother whose child had significant special needs. During the proceedings, the Department of Human Services changed course from seeking termination, to seeking placement with extended family. The trial court terminated parental rights, granted the Department guardianship, but precluded placement with extended family. The court of appeals affirmed termination, finding the Department used “active efforts” to rehabilitate mother, which failed. But, the trial court erroneously deviated from the ICWA’s placement preferences, thus, Department could place the child with extended family.