dad and baby on bed

Court Does Not Have to Look to Closest Relative Before Terminating Parental Rights

In this Department of Human Services case, the Court was faced with terminating parental rights of both parents.  The Court found that termination was warranted.

Parents appealed and argued the following:

Parents concede that they were in no position to reunify with A.O. at the time of termination; however, they argue that termination was erroneous because A.O. could have been placed in the custody of D.M.’s (father) mother, C.M.  Because this “less restrictive alternative” was available, appellants contend, the circuit court erred in terminating their parental rights.

But the Court points out that the available relative alternative is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

Arkansas Code Annotated sections 9-27-355(b)(1) and 9-28-105, which concern the placement of juveniles by DHS, both state that a relative of the juvenile shall be given preferential consideration for placement if the relative meets all relevant child protection standards and it is in the best interest of the juvenile to be placed with them. However, section 9-27-341 does not contain any such requirement, and this court has held that section 9-27-355 is not relevant to a request for TPR.  By the same reasoning, neither is section 9-28-105. Appellants also cite section 9-27-338(c) to advance their argument that placing a child with relatives is preferred at all stages of a case, not just at the time of initial placement.  However, that statute addresses the requirements for a permanency-planning hearing and is no more pertinent to our review of a TPR determination than the other sections cited by appellants. Appellants have appealed from the TPR order in A.O.’s case, not from a permanency-planning order or a denial of placement under sections 9-27-355 or 9-28-105.  The issue before the circuit court at the termination hearing was a petition for TPR, not a custody, guardianship, or adoption petition, and appellants have not advanced any new or persuasive argument that a grandmother’s willingness to care for A.O. somehow precluded the termination of appellants’ parental rights.  Accordingly, we affirm.

Case is Ogden and McClanahan v. Arkansas DHS, 2012 Ark. App. 577.