Relates to the permanent termination of parental rights for reason of developmental disabilities.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the social services law, in relation to the permanent termination of parental rights for reason of developmental disabilities; and to repeal subdivision 6 of section 384-b of such law relating thereto
PURPOSE: This bill removes " mental illness" and "mental retardation" as separate grounds for terminating parental rights under the social services law.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section one of the bill amends section 384-b of the social services law by eliminating subsection c of subdivision 4 thereby removing from law mental illness and mental retardation as grounds for the termination of guardian ship and child custody.
Section two of the bill repeals subdivision 6 of section 384-b of the social services law which defines the terms "mental illness" and "mental retardation" and explains the required court procedures, proscribed examinations and expert testimonies for verifying that an individual is mentally ill or mentally retarded.
Section three of the bill provides for an immediate effective date.
JUSTIFICATION: The termination of parental rights completely and irrevocably severs a parent's right to custody as well as the right to ever visit, communicate with, or regain custody of his or her child. Parents with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to loss of custody and termination of parental rights due to preconceived notions about their ability to parent and the focus on their diagnosis or condition, rather than their behavior, i.e. ability to parent. Research shows an alarming rate of custody loss among parents with psychiatric or intellectual disabilities - as high as 80%. Statewide, about one-fourth of foster care placements involve at least one parent with a serious mental health problem.
The Social Services Law, as amended in 1976, includes the following grounds for termination of parental rights: abandonment; permanent neglect; severe and repeated abuse; and inability by reason of mental illness or mental retardation to provide proper and adequate care. The statute is discriminatory because it explicitly and unnecessarily incorporates disability-related grounds for termination of parental rights.
Though disability alone is not justification for termination of parent rights, the major concern is that the explicit inclusion of disability grounds unfairly allows a shift in the focus from a parent's behavior to a parent's diagnosis or condition. Under the current statute, parents suffer from a presumption of unfitness. However, recent research has found that parents with disabilities are not more likely to maltreat their children than parents without disabilities. While psychiatric or intellectual disability may be a contributing factor to a parent's behavior, there are many other factors that can be contributing which are not singled out in statute. Rather it is the
behavior itself which should be the basis for termination of parental rights, not the condition.
Family preservation is an important goal under the social services law. A focus on proper preventive or unification services for families with disabilities will likely decrease foster care placements, thereby saving the state money and even more importantly sparing families the trauma associated with unnecessary foster care.
New York State should act to remove this discriminatory section of the statute in order to remove the biases, the disincentive for parents to seek treatment and ultimately the unnecessary placement of some children in foster care and lack of adequate reunification efforts.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: S.3026-2011
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None
EFFECTIVE DATE: Immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 7334 IN SENATE May 13, 2014 ___________Introduced by Sen. CARLUCCI -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Children and Families AN ACT to amend the social services law, in relation to the permanent termination of parental rights for reason of developmental disabili- ties; and to repeal subdivision 6 of section 384-b of such law relat- ing thereto THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 4 of section 384-b of the social services law, as added by chapter 666 of the laws of 1976, paragraphs (b) and (c) as amended by chapter 284 of the laws of 1981, paragraph (d) as amended by chapter 739 of the laws of 1981 and paragraph (e) as amended by section 56 of part A of chapter 3 of the laws of 2005, is amended to read as follows: 4. An order committing the guardianship and custody of a child pursu- ant to this section shall be granted only upon one or more of the following grounds: (a) Both parents of the child are dead, and no guardian of the person of such child has been lawfully appointed; or (b) The parent or parents, whose consent to the adoption of the child would otherwise be required in accordance with section one hundred elev- en of the domestic relations law, abandoned such child for the period of six months immediately prior to the date on which the petition is filed in the court; or (c)
[The parent or parents, whose consent to the adoption of the child would otherwise be required in accordance with section one hundred elev- en of the domestic relations law, are presently and for the foreseeable future unable, by reason of mental illness or mental retardation, to provide proper and adequate care for a child who has been in the care of an authorized agency for the period of one year immediately prior to the date on which the petition is filed in the court; or (d)]The child is a permanently neglected child; or [(e)](D) The parent or parents, whose consent to the adoption of the child would otherwise be required in accordance with section one hundredEXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD15021-01-4 S. 7334 2
eleven of the domestic relations law, severely or repeatedly abused such child. Where a court has determined that reasonable efforts to reunite the child with his or her parent are not required, pursuant to the fami- ly court act or this chapter, a petition to terminate parental rights on the ground of severe abuse as set forth in subparagraph (iii) of para- graph (a) of subdivision eight of this section may be filed immediately upon such determination. S 2. Subdivision 6 of section 384-b of the social services law is REPEALED. S 3. This act shall take effect immediately.