VII. E. Determination of Need to Commence or Discontinue Rehabilitation or Reunification

Effective 2/1/87

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VII. E. Determination of Need to Commence or Discontinue Rehabilitation or Reunification

Effective 2/1/87

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1.For Parents Who Are Willing to Consent to Termination of Parental Rights:

If the parent is willing to consent to termination of parental rights, proceed according to Section VII, Subsection B, Termination of Parental Rights.

 

2.For Parents Whose Whereabouts are Unknown or Who Have Abandoned Their Child:
a.Conduct a diligent search.
b.If parents are found, proceed with family rehabilitation efforts (see subsection D).
c.If the parents cannot be located, the caseworker will assess the facts and record in the case record why the parents are unavailable and cannot be located, and what the likelihood is for their return.
d.If the parent has been absent for three months, and a diligent search has been conducted, the caseworker may discontinue efforts to locate the parent, and shall send a letter of notification by registered mail regarding discontinuation of services to the parents' last known address, and proceed with another permanent plan.  Petition for termination of parental rights may be initiated based on abandonment and/or other applicable basis for termination of parental rights.
e.If the parent is subsequently found, reevaluate the decision to terminate his rights based on abandonment, considering whether the child should be returned to the parent who has been found, the parent's desire to have the child returned, and the parent's ability to protect the child from jeopardy to his health and welfare.  The decision will depend on the child's current situation and his own family's ability to reintegrate the child without jeopardy to his health or welfare.

In order to proceed with termination of parental rights, unless the child has been abandoned, the Department must be able to show, usually through expert testimony, that the parent is unwilling or unable to protect the child from jeopardy or has been unwilling or unable to take responsibility for the child within a time which is reasonably calculated to meet the needs of the child, or that the parent has failed to make a good faith effort to rehabilitate and reunify with the child.  After reevaluation, proceed with rehabilitation work or another permanent plan.

 

3.For Parents who are Unable to Protect Their Child From Jeopardy or For Parents Who are Unable to take Responsibility for Their Child:

If the caseworker believes that the parent has qualities or disabilities which are so severe they make the parent unable to protect the child from jeopardy, and if those qualities or disabilities are unlikely to change in a time reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs, the caseworker will immediately request an expert evaluation of the parent and how his/her abilities/qualities may affect care of and ability to protect the child.  If the parent is unwilling, the worker will request the court to order the evaluation (see Section XI, subsection N, Examination by Experts and Motion for Examination).

While awaiting expert evaluation, the caseworker will offer appropriate services, maintain contact with the parent and document behaviors, statements, living circumstances, parent's ability to meet his own needs, etc., which have bearing on the issue of the parent(s) ability to work constructively on reunification.

a.If the evaluation substantiates the caseworker's information that Department efforts will have little, if any, constructive effect in changing the parent's ability to protect the child from jeopardy, the worker shall:
(1)Document in the case record the results of this assessment and the evaluation;
(2)Meet with his supervisor within a week of receiving this information;
(3)Consider the circumstances of the case;
(4)Reach a decision whether to begin termination of parental rights proceedings or develop another permanent plan;
(5)Assess the current visitation schedule and decide upon an appropriate schedule including any court ordered visitation.
(6)Inform the parents of the change of objective for the child and the visitation plan in writing, as well as verbally, if possible;
(7)Give written notice of discontinuation of services to return the child home prior to service of a copy of a petition to terminate parental rights.

 

b.If the evaluation indicates that the parent can be rehabilitated within a time reasonably calculated to meet the needs of the child, the caseworker shall proceed with a rehabilitation plan as outlined in subsection D, unless there is evidence from other sources which refutes the evaluation.

If there is evidence which refutes the evaluation, and based on this evidence the worker believes the parents cannot be rehabilitated, the caseworker shall decide whether to begin procedures to terminate parental rights and, if so, follow steps outlined in Section VIII, subsection B, Termination of Parental Rights.

 

c.If the evaluation is inconclusive, the worker shall:
(1)Request more specific information from the evaluator, if possible;
(2)Consider the necessity of obtaining a second opinion and obtain it, if possible;
(3)If there appears to be enough other evidence, begin procedures for termination or parental rights; or
(4)Proceed with a rehabilitation plan.

 

d.In all cases where information is conflicting, inconclusive, or minimal, and the case plan cannot be determined by following the steps outlined above, the worker shall proceed with a rehabilitation plan.

 

4.For parents who are unwilling to protect their child from jeopardy, or for parents who are unwilling to take responsibility for their child or who fail to make a good faith effort to rehabilitate and reunify with the child:
a.If, after a maximum of a year of rehabilitation work (but no sooner than 3 months after the final protection order was granted unless the court has issued an order or the department has decided to not commence or to discontinue family rehabilitation work) in which the Department has done everything reasonably possible to work for the safe return of the child to his parents, and these efforts at rehabilitation have failed so that there is clear and convincing evidence that the parents are unwilling to protect the child from jeopardy or are unwilling to take responsibility for the child or make a good faith effort to rehabilitate and reunify with the child, and these circumstances are unlikely to change within a time which is reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs:
(1)The caseworker shall document efforts and results in the case record, including evidence that the parents are:
(a)Unwilling to protect the child from jeopardy to his health and welfare,
(b)Unwilling to, take responsibility for the child,
(c)Unlikely to change their circumstances or have their circumstances changed in a time which is reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs.

 

(2)The caseworker and supervisor shall meet within a week to:
(a)Consider the circumstances;
(b)Decide if further consultation is necessary with other professionals, departmental staff, etc.
(c)Reach a decision whether to begin termination proceedings, or
(d)Make another permanent plan

 

(3)The parents shall be orally informed of the change of objective for the child, if they are available, followed by a letter sent by registered mail to their last known address.  The notice shall include:
 The specific reasons for the Department's decision;
 The specific efforts the Department has made in working with the parent and child; and
 A statement that the parents have the right to petition the court for judicial review of this decision.

 

(4)This notice requirement must precede service of a copy of a petition for Termination of Parental Rights (22 MRSA §404l).

 

b.However, if rehabilitation work was done prior to the child's becoming committed pursuant to a final protection order (C2), and if there is clear and convincing evidence that jeopardy still exists and rehabilitation efforts have failed, the caseworker may proceed with steps for termination of parental rights in less than one year but no sooner than 3 months after the child has been committed pursuant to a final protection order.

 

c.Within thirty (30) days of the notification to the parent(s) that the Department has discontinued services, and no sooner than three months after a final protection order committing the child to the custody of the Department, the caseworker shall begin administrative procedures to petition for Termination of Parental Rights and clear the child for adoption unless it is clearly documented that the child should not or cannot be placed for adoption. (See Section VIII, subsection B, ll Policy on Termination of Parental Rights and Placement for Adoption).

 

d.The caseworker shall petition for judicial review within the time frames specified in Section VI, Judicial Review, unless the child has been adopted or emancipated. The caseworker must have completed an assessment, developed a plan for the child, and have documentation to support his plan.

 

e.In the instances where neither return to family nor adoption is appropriate and/or possible, the Department will not seek Termination of Parental Rights. In such cases parents must still be given written notification of changes in residence and of serious injuries, major medical care, or hospitalization as specified in Subsection E, 5 unless such notification is detrimental to the best interests of the child.  Parents shall be notified in writing of the objective for the child, and of the visitation plan unless visitation would be detrimental to the best interests of the child.

If at any time the circumstances of the child and/or parent changes, and a plan for return home or adoption can be initiated, the worker shall pursue the new objective immediately.

 

5.For Parents Who Have Acted Toward or Failed to Protect a Child in a Manner Which is Heinous or Abhorrent to Society, or Who Have Been Convicted of a Crime Against a Child as Specified in 22 MRSA §4041 (2)(A)(6).
a.When the parent has committed a specified crime against a child or the actions of the parent toward a child or the parent's failure to protect a child from harm is heinous or abhorrent to society and the court has ordered pursuant to 22 MRSA §4031(1)(G-1) that the department has no further responsibility for family reunification and that the department shall move forward in a timely fashion to make permanent plans for the child:
(1)Notice and procedural requirements remain in effect as specified in Subsection D, 3.
(2)The caseworker shall discuss the case with the Assistant Attorney General as soon as possible to:
 Assess the circumstances of the case
 Decide what other information is needed, if any, and
 Secure legal advice on preparation for petitioning for termination of parental rights after 3 months has elapsed following the final protection order if the plan for the child is adoption.

 

(3)If family rehabilitation and reunification is not to be attempted, another permanent plan for the child must be decided within 90 days of the final protection order.
(4)The reasons for not commencing or for discontinuing family rehabilitation and reunification efforts must be carefully recorded in the child's record and initialed by the supervisor.
(5)If adoption is not the plan, termination of parental rights will not be sought unless specifically approved by the Division Director or designee.

 

b.When the parent has committed a specific crime against a child or acted toward a child or failed to protect a child in a manner which is heinous or abhorrent to society, but the court did not issue an order under 22 MRSA §4036 (1)(G-1):
(1)The caseworker will discuss the case with the Assistant Attorney General as soon as possible to:
 Assess the circumstances of the case
 Decide what additional information may be necessary, if any, for the department to decide whether to commence or discontinue family rehabilitation and reunification efforts
 Secure legal advice about the merits of not commencing or of discontinuing rehabilitation and reunification efforts
 Secure legal advice on the advisability or likely success of a petition for termination of parental rights 3 months after the final protection order.

 

(2)The caseworker and supervisor, based on the legal advice, will decide whether family reunification and rehabilitation efforts will be commenced. Such a decision should be made in consultation with the Program Manager and/or Division Director.
(3)Notice and procedural requirements specified in Subsection D, 3 remain in effect.
(4)If the decision is that family rehabilitation and reunification efforts will not be commenced or will be discontinued, another permanent plan for the child must be decided upon within 90 days of the final protection order.
(5)The reasons for not commencing or for discontinuing family rehabilitation and reunification efforts will be carefully documented in the case record and initialed by the supervisor.
(6)If adoption is not the plan, termination of parental rights will not be sought unless specifically approved by the Division Director or designee.