WA Legal Roundup- Div. III: Need to provide timely counseling services and attachment services before terminating parental rights (duh!)
So, in Termination of S.J., the trial court terminated the parental rights due to drug use and unsanitary conditions. Not an uncommon scenario. Parent (T.H.) ordered to do UAs, a psych eval, mental health services, DV education, parenting assessment, and of course provide a safe clean home. She did most of that, after an early treatment failure figured out she was bipolar and got the treatment she needed, and has remained clean and sober. She continued with therapy and learned how to, you know, be a parent. State moved forward with its termination. The kid, as kids sometimes do, bonded with the Fosters, and the state provided no support to her in how to deal with that issue.
Moreover, the record showed TH applied the suggested parenting skills and attempted to control SJ's behavior but was met with unusually strong controlling and aggressive behavior from SJ. It was DSHS's role to work with SJ to reduce this unusual behavior, not TH's role to counteract SJ's new controlling and aggressive behaviors related to his detachment from TH during his bonding with the foster parents while in State care. Importantly, the record shows TH and SJ were attached at the initiation of the dependency. Ultimately, it was DSHS's responsibility to identify the services TH and SJ needed and provide them. It identified attachment and bonding as a "major issue" and failed to provide attachment and bonding services. RP (Mar. 13, 2007) at 455.
In sum, TH cured the deficiencies triggering the State's removal of SJ, unsanitary living conditions and drug use, and she established the required safe, clean, and drug-free home. When the dependency was initiated TH and SJ shared a bond and attachment that diminished over time as SJ became bonded with his foster parents. SJ became detached from TH as he bonded with his foster parents. The State failed to timely provide TH mental health services while she struggled with her drug addiction. 10 No. 26179-4-III In re the Termination of SJ TH was unable to restore her relationship with SJ even though she attempted to apply the parenting skills taught to her. The record shows TH maintained a relationship with her other children who did not exhibit SJ's unusual controlling and aggressive behaviors. TH was not provided attachment and bonding services for her and SJ even though the State acknowledged her need. We cannot say the services would have been futile. And, considering SJ's detachment from TH while in State care, when at the same time, TH awaited delayed services, placing the burden on TH to repair the detachment-damage seems fundamentally unfair in a constitutional due process context. See In re Dependency of K.N.J., 2011 WL 2118793, at *2 (Wash. May, 26, 2011). The trial court erred in finding that all necessary services had been provided.
I did a few of these in my day, good to TH for actually trying. Here's to hoping she makes the best of her second chance.