All the Way Back: From the Brink of TPR to Reunification and Revocation
Back in August I wrote about winning a TPR trial. Despite prevailing at that point, my client's kids did not reutrn to him then. There was not a revocation pending. When a termination of parental rights (TPR) petition is denied, the status quo is maintained with the kids remaining in DCF care until further order of the court. A motion to revoke the commitment needs to be filed and granted to return the children. If the situation doesn't improve, DCF could file another TPR.
My client's case started more than three years ago. He was arrested and went to jail. His kids went into DCF care. They were committed and DCF was required, under state and federal law, to make reasonable efforst to reunify them. My client was released in November 2016 and began attending programs and visits with his kids. Just a few months later DCF filed a proposed permamency plan of TPR/adoption. (A permamency plan is just that--a plan--the case's goal. It must be reviewed approved by the court each year a child is in foster care. A TPR petition must still be filed to effectuate a TPR plan but one must is supposed to be filed within 60 days upon approval). We objected and the court approved the plan. A TPR was filed and we took it to trial, which we won. Not long after, DCF moved for another TPR plan. They also moved to reargue the TPR (which was itself was later denied). We objected to the plan once again. DCF was also hesitant to implement reunification efforts again and instead insisted that my client repeat a program yet also refused to implement a reunification service. We demanded an administrative hearing at DCF to address those issues. The hearing officer (who is a DCF attorney) found in our favor and ordered the department to implement a reunification assessment program. She also decided that the request for the repeated program was not warranted. As a designee of the DCF commissioner, the hearing officer's conclusions become the official position of the department. The day before we had an evidentiary hearing on the permanency plan. The judge reserved her decision. I moved to reopen and enter the administrative decision into evidence. It was granted and the court ordered a permanency plan of reunification. I then filed a motion to revoke.
Shortly after the administrative decision, DCF implemented a reunification assessment program. The program faciliated visits with my client and his kids and recommended that they reunify. They had overnight viists during their winter break and were placed with my client under the commitment (meaning they were legally in DCF custody but physically with their father) in January. This week DCF agreed to the revocation and it was ordered by the court.
Until ordered by the court and its own hearing officer, DCF did not relent in trying to terminate my client's rights over his children (so that they could be adopted by their foster parents). We didn't relent either. My client continued to fight and continued to work. In the end, he won. He came all the way back. His kids came back.