Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Friday, April 16, 2021

Clinic Releases Report on Preserving Parental Rights for Incarcerated Parents

From Yale Law School:

Connecticut Voices for Children (CT Voices) and the Criminal Justice Advocacy Clinic of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School (CJAC) released a report on March 12, 2021 that examines the collateral consequences of the Adoption and Safe Families Act on children with incarcerated parents.

The report, “Incarcerated Parents and Termination of Parental Rights in Connecticut: Recommendations for Reform,” examines the unintended impacts of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), a federal law passed in 1997 that shifted the goal of child-protection policy from family preservation to adoption, and outlines recommendations to protect parental rights and promote the welfare of children with incarcerated parents.

“As it stands, the Adoption and Safe Families Act can unintentionally cause harm to children and families with incarcerated parents,” said Emily Byrne, Executive Director of Connecticut Voices for Children. “It is well within the power of the state to implement exceptions to the ASFA guidelines that would benefit the well-being of children and protect the rights of incarcerated parents; attention to this matter is even especially important during the pandemic.

By statute, judges must consider the parent’s “degree of personal rehabilitation” and “[t]he extent to which the parent has maintained contact with the child, including visitations, communications, or contributions.”

This presents unique challenges for incarcerated parents who often face barriers to maintaining contact including, but not limited to: the distance that many parents are incarcerated from their homes; the cost of visiting; the cost of phone calls; and the frequent relocation of children in foster care. According to the Marshall Project, from 2006–2019, at least 32,000 incarcerated parents’ parental rights have been terminated nationally, with approximately 5,000 seemingly on the basis of their incarceration alone.

Read more here.

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