State Must Prove Parent’s Unfitness, Despite Child Welfare Agency’s Interventions, in Order to Terminate Parental Rights

Rhode Island Father in prison.

Father’s Daughter is born.

Father moves multiple times for visitation or timesharing with Daughter.

Trial judge denies.

And, a matter of weeks to six months before Father’s release, terminates Father’s parental rights to Daughter on grounds of abandonment and serious detriment to Daughter.

At the trial, the only witness is Father himself.

No caseworkers on behalf of the child welfare agency.

No evidence about Father’s compliance or noncompliance with his case plan.

No testimony about what would be in Daughter’s best interests.

Father has completed drug treatment, anger management, domestic violence prevention and behavior therapy.

Father’s prison therapist recommends reunification of Father and Daughter.

Father appeals.

Rhode Island Supreme Court reverses, holding that the state’s child welfare agency has not met its burden of proof of Father’s unfitness as a parent.

Read more in this Providence [RI] Journal article: Family Court Judge Jeremiah criticized in R.I. Supreme Court ruling.