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While vague categories like "deprivation of necessities" may save a child from abandonment by a crack mother, they also allow child-welfare agencies to fall heavily on low-income households.

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Parental Rights in Case Law

Protect your children — Know your rights!

If a government agency has involved itself into your family, you are not alone. Many families have been under attack in recent years. It is imperative that you know what rights you have under the protection of the law. Be sure to share these cases with your attorney.

Kids For Money

Valuable Information You Need to
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Warning! The Truth About Child Protective Services by author Don Lyons
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Parenting rights are God given. They are also protected by the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

In Troxel v. Granville, 99-138 [U.S. 06/05/2000 U.S. Supreme Court, November 1999], the Supreme Court ruled,

[49] The Fourteenth Amendment provides that no State shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." We have long recognized that the Amendment's Due Process Clause, like its Fifth Amendment counterpart, "guarantees more than fair process." Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 719 (1997). The Clause also includes a substantive component that "provides heightened protection against government interference with certain fundamental rights and liberty interests." Id., at 720;
see also Reno v. Flores, 507 U. S. 292, 301-302 (1993).

[50] The liberty interest at issue in this case -- the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children -- is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court. More than 75 years ago, in Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390, 399, 401 (1923), we held that the "liberty" protected by the Due Process Clause includes the right of parents to "establish a home and bring up children" and "to control the education of their own."

Two years later, in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U. S. 510, 534-535 (1925), we again held that the "liberty of parents and guardians" includes the right "to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control."

Additional Information

We explained in Pierce that "[t]he child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations." Id., at 535. We returned to the subject in Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U. S. 158 (1944), and again confirmed that there is a constitutional dimension to the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children. "It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder." Id., at 166.

...There is a presumption that fit parents act in their children's best interests, Parham v. J. R., 442 U. S. 584, 602; there is normally no reason for the State to inject itself into the private realm of the family to further question fit parents' ability to make the best decisions regarding their children, see, e.g., Reno v. Flores, 507 U. S. 292, 304.

...This primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition"); Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U. S. 246, 255 (1978) ("We have recognized on numerous occasions that the relationship between parent and child is constitutionally protected"); Parham v. J. R., 442 U. S. 584, 602 (1979) ("Our jurisprudence historically has reflected Western civilization concepts of the family as a unit with broad parental authority over minor children. Our cases have consistently followed that course"); Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U. S. 745, 753 (1982) (discussing "[t]he fundamental liberty interest of natural parents in the care, custody, and management of their child"); Glucksberg, supra, at 720 ("In a long line of cases, we have held that, in addition to the specific freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights, the 'liberty' specially protected by the Due Process Clause includes the righ[t] ... to direct the education and upbringing of one's children" (citing Meyer and Pierce).

In light of this extensive precedent, it cannot now be doubted that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.

Additional Cases

In the Matter of J.M.G. Superior Court of New Jersey (July 16, 2009)

The Superior Court of New Jersey upheld the decision that a woman who refused an unnecessary cesarean at St. Barnabas Hospital, which boasts a 49.3 percent cesarean rate, will not receive custody of her daughter. The judge claims the Superior Court of New Jersey's decision is not based on the defendant's refusal of a cesarean, but on "other substantial additional evidence of abuse and neglect that supported the ultimate findings." See also...

In the Matter of B.M.B Kansas Supreme Court (March 13, 1998)

In the most significant Miranda or interrogation case from the state supreme court in many years, the Kansas High Court, in a unanimous decision, dramatically and drastically changes Kansas custodial juvenile interrogation law.

For the first time, the court adopts a bright-line rule that anyone under the age of 14 must be given an opportunity to consult with his or her attorney or their parent or guardian whether the juvenile will waive his or her rights to an attorney and to remain silent. Both the parent and the juvenile must be advised of the juvenile's Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. Otherwise, no statement or confession from the juvenile can be used. [See IN THE MATTER OF B.M.B., Appellant. 264 Kan. 417 (955 P2d 1302)]

Civic Case causing loss of children, when criminal charges should be filed.

Boyd v. U.S.
In preparing the appeal, I came across an old court case, Boyd v. United States from the late 1880's. I think it has application for many families facing child abuse allegations. Boyd addresses cases in which criminal charges are not sought, and instead a civil suit is filed, on equivalent charges, for the express purpose of seizing, or causing persons to forfeit property (chattel : kids), etc., by depriving the defendant of the constitutional rights they would have been entitled to if a criminal complaint had been filed.

I think DHSS and CPS does it almost everytime that way. I really haven't noticed anyone challenging juvenile dependency and false abuse allegations on the grounds asserted in Boyd. It was precisely right on point. Zingy quotes too. It was surprising how applicable the Boyd ruling is to juvenile dependency proceedings nearly 120 years later. Between Boyd and Crawford v. Washington, a creative attorney could really go to town. Cite: BOYD v. U S, 116 U.S. 616 (1886)

State v. T.L.C.

A Tennessee Court of Appeals vacated and remanded the trial court's termination of a father's parental rights and concluded that the trial court's finding that the child was in all reasonable probability subject to abuse or neglect by the father was against the great weight of the evidence. Cite: No. M2003-00509-COA-R3-JV, 2003 Tenn. App. LEXIS 848 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 3, 2003)

In re Muir

A Tennessee Court of Appeals vacated and remanded the trial court's order denying the petition of a biological mother and her new husband seeking to terminate the parental rights of the biological father. The trial court had previously held that the biological mother and new husband had not established by clear and convincing evidence that the biological father had abandoned the child. However, the appellate court held that it was required to vacate and remand because the trial court's order because the trial court failed to make the specific findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(k). Cite: No. M2002-02963-COA-R3-CV, 2003 Tenn. App. LEXIS 831 (Tenn. App. Nov. 25, 2003)

In re Amanda B.

A Court of Appeals of Oregon reversed a lower court's decision terminating a mother's parental rights , finding that the State failed to carry its burden of demonstrating that the mother was an unfit parent. Under a relevant State statute, the appellate court did not find persuasive evidence of unfitness when considering the mother's mental health at the time of the trial because the mother had been sober for 380 days and she had substantially met all the requirements of the service agreement she entered to result in reunification of her children. Cite: Nos. J000777 & J000778, 2003 WL 22810312 (Or. Ct. App. Nov. 26, 2003)

The National Center for Adoption Law & Policy

The National Center for Adoption provides a weekly case summary archive with many more cases that parents involved in a legal battle may find useful to their individual case.

Termination of Parental Rights Cases

U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals

Hinsley v. Standing Rock Child Protective Servs., No. 07-1435
In an action brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) alleging that defendant-agency negligently placed her half-brother in her home without warning her that he was a child molester, resulting in the sexual abuse of plaintiff's daughter, summary judgment for defendant is affirmed where the challenged conduct fell within the discretionary function exception to the FTCA.
Cite: No. 07-1435, (U.S. Ct. App. Feb. 5, 2008)

Supreme Court of Texas

In the Interest of D.N.C., No. 07-0621
Petitions for review of a court of appeals ruling reversing a parental rights termination order on factual insufficiency grounds, and reversing a conservatorship appointment, are denied where: 1) the only available statutory mechanism for the Department of Family and Protective Services's appointment was as a consequence of the termination pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code section 161.207; and 2) thus, In the Interest of J.A.J., ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2007) does not apply, and mother's challenge to the conservatorship appointment was subsumed in her appeal of the parental-rights termination order.
Cite: No. 07-0621, (TX Supreme Ct. Feb. 8, 2008)

Supreme Court of Texas

In re Angel L., No. B198541
Order terminating parental rights in minor is reversed based on postjudgment events since all parties have expressed a willingness to stipulate to reversal of the judgment terminating parental rights.
Cite: No. B198541, 2007 CK20818 (CA Super. Ct. April 12, 2007)

California Appellate Districts

In re G.S.R., No. B197000
Order terminating parental rights is reversed where the juvenile court made no finding based on clear and convincing evidence that the father is unfit, and the court improperly terminated parental rights based on father's poverty. Moreover the court should determine whether the Indian Child Welfare Act applies.
Cite: No. B197000, 2008 JD01255 (CA Ct. App. Jan. 8, 2008)

Appeals of Orders of Termination

Everett v. Everett
A North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's order which relieved the State social services agency from facilitating reunification efforts between the minor children and their biological father. The appellate court held that such reunification efforts could not be terminated because the record did not show the efforts were futile.
Cite: No. COA03-316, 2003 WL 22844441 (N.C. Ct. App. Dec. 2, 2003)

When Termination Is Not Required - re: adoption

In some unusual cases, a child may be adopted without any voluntary or involuntary termination of the parental rights of the biological parents.

In a 1985 case in Alaska, the parents of the child wished to retain their parental rights and also allow a third person to adopt the child. The three individuals had shared parental duties. The court decided to allow the adoption, and the child then had three lawful parents, rather than two.

Updated: July 11, 2009