It has been said that the termination of a natural parent’s parental rights is akin to “the death penalty” of child welfare cases. When the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services makes the decision that it is in a child’s best interest to terminate the rights of a natural parent, the proceedings are often taken as a last resort. Because the rights involved are so important and fundamental, the DFPS must follow strict procedural guidelines when pursuing a termination case. The Texas Supreme Court recently addressed a natural father’s appeal from a ruling terminating his parental rights.
According to the facts discussed in the recently published appellate opinion, the Texas DFPS had sought to terminate a man’s parental rights over his son. The man and the child’s mother were married in 2016 and the child was born in 2017. The mother had a history of drug problems and appeared to expose the child to drugs before and after her pregnancy. In a different proceeding, the mother’s parental rights were terminated for her failure to abide by a safety plan enacted by the DFPS.
In the instant case, the DFPS alleged that the man did not have a safe home for his son to live in with him. Additionally, the DFPS was concerned about the man’s continued contact with the child’s mother, and his minimization of her drug and behavioral issues. The father proposed that he and his son could move in with a family member, however, the plans were not guaranteed, and the DFPS continued to pursue termination proceedings. At trial, a jury found that terminating the father’s parental rights was in the best interest of the child, in part because the father knowingly allowed the child to be endangered by the mother’s drug abuse.