Unfortunately, in matters of family law, there are circumstances in which a parent’s rights to their children are under investigation, and parental rights can be terminated. The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) is the agency charged with ensuring the protection of children, and are typically the party requesting involuntary termination of a parental rights. Recently, they were involved in an appellate case, DCP&P v. PD and AW, which covered a breadth of issues, including international treaties and constitutional due process.
In 2006, AW, the mother, gave birth to a child called SD. Several days later, DCP&P got word that there were adults abusing alcohol and drugs in the same apartment the children were living. SD tested positive for cocaine. As a result, SD was removed from AW’s custody on an emergency basis, and the child was put in a resource home. The DCP&P then filed a complaint with the court requesting care, custody and supervision of SD. The court approved their request, and AW agreed that she was responsible for neglect of the child. SD was then placed in the care of KA and RA, maternal relatives. PD was proven to be SD’s father, after a paternity test. He was offered supervised visitation, which eventually had to be held at the offices of the DCP&P given the fractious relationship between the resource parents and the biological parents. Eventually, SD was returned to AW’s care, with the DCP&P remaining involved. The court entered an order preventing PD from having any access to the child in March of 2007 until he had participated in various evaluations and programs to get access to SW reinstated. He did participate, until he was charged with a probation violation, and stopped attending the programs. In 2008, the court determined that AW and PD were to share legal custody of the child, with AW having physical custody. PD received charges for aggravated assault at some point, and was sentenced to three years in prison. In December 2008, PD was deported back to Cape Verde, Africa.
In 2012, DCP&P received another report of violence between AW and a man called JG. AW was charged with neglect and SD was placed in the care of the DCP&P, at which point PD was notified. SD was eventually placed once again with KA and RA, and PD was notified of the child’s placement. DCP&P considered placing the child with PD, but there was difficulty in determining whether his home would be suitable, given his international location. An international home study was carried out in November 2013, and the court found it inadequate, particularly in light of concerns regarding PD’s criminal history. There was no recommendation for SD to be placed with PD. In January 2014, the court approved of the DCP&P’s plan to terminate PD and AW’s parental rights. In December 2014, AW surrendered her parental rights to KA and RA. The court held trial on the DCP&P’s complaint concerning PD’s parental rights in June 2015. PD was still in Africa, so did not participate in trial on day one, but participated by phone and gave sworn testimony on day 2. He opposed his parental rights being terminated, and asked the court for SD to live with him. Continue reading