There are times when family reunification is not possible, and the child protective services (CPS) agency must pursue other options for achieving permanency. Sometimes, when a parent recognizes that family reunification is not possible, the parent may elect to voluntarily relinquish their parental rights to a child. In other circumstances, the CPS agency seeks an involuntary termination of parental rights (TPR). The grounds, which vary by State, for involuntary TPR are specific circumstances under which the child cannot safely be returned home because of risk of harm by the parent or the inability of the parent to provide for the child's basic needs.
Examples of grounds for TPR include:
- Severe or chronic abuse or neglect (of the child or of other children in the household)
- Abandonment of the child
- Long-term mental illness or deficiency of the parent
- Long-term alcohol- or drug-induced incapacity of the parent
- Failure to support or maintain contact with the child
- TPR for another of the parent’s children
- Felony conviction of the parent for a violent crime against the child or another family member
When efforts by the State to achieve reunification have failed to correct the conditions or behaviors that led to the CPS intervention, then Federal law requires the State agency to initiate a petition for TPR if a child has been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months (with certain exceptions). Some States have adopted shorter timeframes for very young children or in circumstances of particularly egregious child maltreatment.