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					          Case Summaries: Termination of Parental Rights:
                  Defining 'Reasonable Efforts'

Alabama:
I.      Relevant Statutory Provisions
        A. Requiring 'Reasonable Efforts'
  CHINS (Children in Need of Supervision): When the court is considering
 terminating parental rights, it must take into consideration that reasonable efforts by
 the Department of Human Resources leading toward the rehabilitation of the parent has
 failed. (Ala. Code § 26-18-7 (a) (6) (1975))

 In addition, when the court issues an order removing a child, the order must contain
 evidence that reasonable efforts were made to prevent the removal of the child, and
 that reasonable efforts will be made to reunite the child with his/her family. (Ala. Code §
 12-15-65 (g) (1975))

        A. Statutory Definition:
        “As used in this chapter, “reasonable efforts” refers to efforts made to preserve
and reunify families prior to the placement of a child in foster care, to prevent or
eliminate the need for removing the child from the child's home, and to make it possible
for a child to return safely to the child's home. In determining the reasonable efforts to be
made with respect to a child, and in making such reasonable efforts, the child's health and
safety shall be the paramount concern. If continuation of reasonable efforts is determined
to be inconsistent with the permanency plan for the child, reasonable efforts shall be
made to place the child and to complete whatever steps are necessary to finalize the
permanent placement of the child.” (Ala. Code § 12-15-65 (m) (1975))

        B. Services must be:
        Alabama has no statutory services requirement; however, there is case law that
suggests that what services are required is a fact dependent inquiry, and the only
requirement considered “reasonable” that must be followed in all circumstances is that
the child’s health and safety are of paramount concern.
         (“…the efforts actually required by DHR in each case, whether the court is considering
rehabilitation or reunification, depend on the particular facts of that case, the statutory obligations regarding
family reunification, and the best interests of the child.”) (J.B. v. Jefferson Co. Dept. of Human Res.
2003 WL 21489415, *6 (Al. Civ. App.) (awaiting publication, opinion dated June 30, 2003))



'Reasonable Efforts' Not Required Under Circumstances Involving:

         1) Egregious Harm: A court of competent jurisdiction has found that a parent
            “…subjected the child to an aggravated circumstance, including but not
            limited to, abandonment, torture, chronic abuse, substance abuse, or sexual
            abuse.” (Ala. Code § 12-15-65 (m)(1) (1975))
                                a. Abandonment: “That the parents have abandoned the
                                   child, provided that in such cases, proof shall not be
                                   required of reasonable efforts to prevent removal or
                                   reunite the child with the parents… In any case where
                                   the parents have abandoned a child and such
                                   abandonment continues for a period of four months
                                   next preceding the filing of the petition, such facts shall
                                   constitute a rebuttable presumption that the parents are
                                   unable or unwilling to act as parents. Nothing in this
                                   subsection is intended to prevent the filing of a petition
                                   in an abandonment case prior to the end of the four-
                                   month period.” (Ala. Code § 26-18-7 (a)(1), (c) (1975))
                                b. Abandonment defined: A parent is deemed to have
                                   abandoned a child if he/she has voluntarily and
                                   intentionally relinquished the custody of her child; if
                                   he/she has withheld his/her presence, love, and care
                                   from the child without good cause or excuse; or if
                                   he/she has failed to claim his/her rights or to perform
                                   his/her duties as a parent . (Ala.Code § 26-18-3(1)(1975))

       2) Prior Termination of Parental Rights: “Reasonable efforts shall not be
          required to be made where the parental rights to a sibling have been
          involuntarily terminated…” (Ala. Code § 12 15-65 (m) (1975))

       3)   Commission of Crime: Where a court of competent jurisdiction has found
            that a parent of a child committed, aided, abetted, attempted, conspired, or
            solicited to commit murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of that
            parent, or committed a felony assault resulting in the serious bodily injury of
            either that child or another child of that parent. (Ala. Code § 12-15-65 (m) (1)-(4)
            (1975))

II.    General Case Law Provisions

       A. Alabama Court of Civil Appeals Cases

            i. J.B. v. Jefferson Co. Dept. of Human Res. 2003 WL 21489415, *6 (Al.
            Civ. App.) (awaiting publication, opinion dated June 30, 2003))
        “It would be illogical to require DHR to make reasonable efforts to rehabilitate a
parent in a case where DHR has no concomitant duty to attempt to reunite the parent and
the child, or where reunification is not practicable. (For example, DHR has no statutory
obligation to assist a parent in overcoming a drug addiction if that parent has been
convicted of murdering the child's sibling and the best interests of the child would be
served by termination of the parent's parental rights.)”

III.   Conditions/Circumstances Affecting ‘Reasonable Efforts’
       A. Parents
              1. Chemical Dependency
    (i) B.R.M. v. State Dept. of Human Resources, 626 So.2d 648 (Ala.
Civ. App. 1993): The trial court found that when the mother placed her
children in foster care, she and a DHR caseworker established a case plan
by which the mother would work toward regaining custody. The mother
entered several drug rehabilitation programs but never completed one, that
she never attended counseling sessions, and that she failed to utilize the
rehabilitative services DHR made available to her, and thus reasonable
efforts were met.
2. Mental Illness/Instability/Low Intellectual Functioning
    (i) J.M. v. State Dept. of Human Resources, 686 So.2d 1253
    (Ala.Civ.App. 1996): Juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in
    ordering psychological evaluations of mother, whose well-being was
    directly related to her ability to care for children, finding children
    dependent, and awarding temporary custody to grandparents;
    psychological evaluations of mother indicated that she was suffering
    from range of emotional problems, including depression, anxiety, and
    emotional instability, and psychologist recommended after counseling
    sessions with mother and children that children remain with
    grandparents with plan for eventual reunification.
    (ii) T.L.W. v. State Dept of Human Resources 678 So.2d 128 (Al.
    Civ. App. 1995): The juvenile court's finding that the mother was
    unable or unwilling to discharge her responsibilities to her children,
    that the mother's conduct or condition rendered her unable to properly
    care for the children, and that such conduct or condition was unlikely
    to change in the foreseeable future, is also supported by the record.
    Her psychologist testified that the mother suffered from major
    depression, addictive disease problems, and a personality disorder that
    made it unlikely that she would ever be able to care adequately for her
    children. Evidence of a mental deficiency is a significant factor for the
    trial court to consider.
    (iii) McCullough v. State Dept. of Human Resources 536 So.2d 68
    (Ala. Civ. App. 1988): The mother has historically failed to provide
    proper care for her children. The five other children were taken for the
    mother's failure to have the children immunized, and her failure to
    send the children to school. She abducted her five older children while
    they were in the custody of DHR and removed them from Alabama
    Under the Child Protection Act, (Ala. Code §§ 26-18-1 through -10,
    (1975)), the le gislature provided a nonexclusive list of factors which
    the courts should consider, including emotional or mental illness or
    mental deficiency. (Ala. Code § 26-18-7(a)(2), (1975)). The statute
    does not require a showing of permanency but rather a showing that
    the condition is "of such duration or nature as to render the parent
    unable to care for needs of the child." (Ala. Code § 26-18-7(a)(2)
    (1975)). There was evidence within the record that indicated the
    mother suffered a borderline psychological difficulty. This evidence of
    a mental deficiency was a factor for the trial court to consider.
B. Children
   1. Failure to Thrive
       (i) Daniels v. State Dept. of Human Resources, 530 So.2d 841
       (Ala.Civ.App. 1988):Where the evidence showed that an unmarried
       teenage mother had either refused or neglected to properly care for her
       child even when helpful services were provided to her, and that because of
       her habits the child had failed to receive proper parental care and the
       conditions in which he was kept constituted a danger to his health,
       termination of parental rights was proper
    2. Prolonged Periods of Out of Home Placement
       (i) S.C.D. v. Etowah County Dept. of Human Resources, 2002 WL
       31270285 (Ala.Civ.App.2002): Evidence supported the juvenile court
       order terminating mother's parental rights; the department of human
       resources had been involved with the family for more than four years
       before it petitioned to terminate mother's parental rights, the children were
       in foster care for 40 months before mother was able to care for the
       children, and mother was unable to care for her children for more than six
       months after they were placed in her home.

    3. Special Medical Needs
       (i) T.M.S. v. Elmore County Dept. of Human Resources, 647 So.2d 746
       (Ala. Civ. App. 1994): Termination of mother's parental rights was
       supported by evidence that the child had multiple and special medical
       needs, that his general and special care had been neglected, and that
       mother's attitude toward Department of Human Resources assistance was
       non-responsive, when DHR had attempted for over a year to assist the
       mother and other family members to provide a stable environment to meet
       the needs of the child and the mother ha failed to make use of available
       programs to meet the needs of her child.

C. County Actions
   1. Out of State Parent:
       (i) D.S.S. v. Clay County Dept. of Human Resources, 755 So.2d 584
       (Ala.Civ.App.1999): In a proceeding to terminate father's parental rights,
       evidence did not support a finding that county department of human
       resources (DHR) had made reasonable efforts toward rehabilitation of
       father; he lived outside of state, but DHR had made no effort to investigate
       whether father was in need of rehabilitation or had failed to take advantage
       of rehabilitative services
   2. Failure to Contact
       (i) S.A.B. v. Mobile County Dept. of Human Resources, 2002 WL
       1397997 (Ala.Civ.App.2002) (NOT YET RELEASED FOR
       PUBLICATION): Evidence did not support finding that Department of
       Human Resources (DHR) made reasonable efforts to rehabilitate alleged
       father before termination of his parental rights; caseworker testified that,
    other than two contacts with father, she had no other communication with
    father, and also acknowledged that DHR did not offer father any services
    and made no efforts to prevent removal, promote reunification, and avoid
    termination of parental rights after father admitted paternity

 3. Search for “viable alternatives” before terminating rights
    (i) (J.A.H. v. Calhoun County Dept. of Human Resources, 2003 WL
    21205854 (Ala.Civ.App.2003) (NOT YET RELEASED FOR
    PUBLICATION): Evidence that incarcerated father presented county
    department of human resources (DHR) with only a list of first names of
    possible relative placements, that list provided by father did not contain
    last names, phone numbers or addresses, that DHR nonetheless
    investigated several of father's family members, that father's child was
    placed with her aunt and uncle who one month later returned child to
    DHR's custody, that paternal grandmother had poor health, financial
    difficulties and allegations of child abuse and neglect made against her,
    and that brother indicated he was financially unable to care for the child,
    was sufficient to establish that DHR searched for viable alternatives before
    terminating father's parental rights

4. Exhaustion of “Reasonable Efforts”
    (i) Ezekiel v. State Dept. of Human Resources, 562 So.2d 524
    (Ala.Civ.App.1990): One factor which the trial court must consider when
    making a decision whether to terminate one's parental rights is whether
    reasonable efforts to rehabilitate the mother were exhausted prior to
    terminating her rights and whether such efforts failed
    (ii) E.J.W. v. State Dept. of Human Resources, 709 So.2d 57
    (Ala.Civ.App.1998): The county department of human resources was
    found to have exhausted all reasonable efforts to rehabilitate child's
    mother before moving to terminate her parental rights; department offered
    mother drug treatment, employment assistance, housing arrangements and
    parenting classes, all of which she refused.

				
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