Termination of Parental Rights of the Mentally Ill: An Analysis of Washington Law

Arturo Ricardo Garcia, Termination of Parental Rights of the Mentally Ill: An Analysis of Washington Law, 37 Gonz. L. Rev. 489 (2002).

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Termination of the most fundamental right of adults-the right to care for one’s children-remains one of the more difficult duties facing Washington courts. In such situations, the courts of this state look to termination of parental rights statutes. Termination is necessary when a parent is abusive, neglectful, or remiss in parenting roles, regardless of the parent’s intent. Termination statutes protect children from parents who act in a manner detrimental to the child’s well-being. Increasingly, Washington courts have addressed termination of the parental rights of convicts, drug addicts, or people with deficiencies that complicate parenting.

Among the last group of parents are the mentally ill. In recent years, the mentally ill have overcome many obstacles due to a more tolerant and educated society, as well as favorable legal decisions regarding discrimination, equal protection, and equal opportunity. Despite recent progress, however, concern continues to surround the issue of whether mentally ill parents receive equal treatment in parental termination procedures. Questions remain as to whether Washington’s termination guidelines adequately address the needs of a mentally ill parent to ensure that termination is absolutely necessary.

This Comment analyzes Washington’s termination of parental rights laws to demonstrate how the state, through its use of both the Department of Social and Health Services (“D.S.H.S.”) and the courts, addresses the termination of parental rights of the mentally ill.” Section II provides an overview of mental illness and its effects on American society. The next section presents an overview of termination of parental rights laws, including a summary of basic elements contained in many termination of parental rights statutes. . . . Read More

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