Typically, a child comes into out-of-home care (foster care) with a goal of reunification. The birth parents are given a case plan of areas that need improvement to show what safety risks need to be addressed. Once these safety risks are properly taken care of, the child can safely return home. If the case plan is not being met within the time parameters set by the case plan and the judge, the plan can move from reunification to severance and adoption.
Once this happens, birth parents have the right to contest this decision. If they contest, there will be a severance trial where the state will bring the evidence to support the decision to severe parental rights. Once all evidence is presented from the state and the birth parents’ lawyers, the judge make a ruling of whether or not the parents’ rights will be terminated. If rights are terminated, the state moves forward with finding permanency for the child outside of returning home, whether it be through guardianship, long term foster, or adoption, and the birth parents no longer hold any rights to the child.
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