Dept. of Human Services v. S.S.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Family Law
  • Date Filed: 12-29-2016
  • Case #: A160985
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Ortega, P.J. for the Court; Egan, J.; & Lagesen, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under ORS 419B.498(2)(b), supporting a continued relationship with parents can, under some circumstances, constitute a compelling reason to determine that filing a petition to terminate parental rights would not be in the best interests of a child.

Mother, Father, and Child appealed permanency judgment that changed Child’s plan from guardianship to adoption and ordered DHS to file a petition to terminate parental rights of Mother and Father. Under ORS 419B.498(2)(b), DHS must file a petition to terminate parental rights if a child has been in substitute care for 15 of the most recent 22 months unless there is a “compelling reason…for determining that filing such a petition would not be in the best interests of the child.” The juvenile court found that, statutorily, adoption is presumptively in the best interests of a child, Child had been in foster care for 15 of the last 22 months, and that maintenance of Child’s relationship with Mother was not a compelling reason to determine that terminating parental rights would not be in Child’s best interests. The juvenile court reasoned that because the parents “caused” Child to be in substitute care, the Child’s continued relationship with parents could not constitute a “compelling reason.” Mother argued that by focusing on the statutory period and the statutory preference for adoption, DHS failed to engage in the “child-centered” determination required under ORS 419B.476(5). ORS 419B.476(5) requires a current evaluation of the child’s circumstances. The Court held that the juvenile court failed to conduct the required “child-centered” determination because its reasoning focused on the circumstances of the parents, rather than Child’s specific needs and circumstances. Reversed and remanded.

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