The Ties that Bind Us: An Empirical, Clinical, and Constitutional Argument Against Terminating Parental Rights

Sankaran & Church (2023), The Ties That Bind Us: An Empirical, Clinical, and Constitutional Argument Against Terminating Parental Rights, Family Court Rev., 61(2), 246-264.

40 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2023

See all articles by Vivek Sankaran

Vivek Sankaran

University of Michigan

Christopher Church

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: March 23, 2023

Abstract

This Article explores the unnecessary termination of a child's relationship with their parent from an empirical, clinical, and constitutional lens. Part I explores administrative data related to TPR, which like many child protection metrics, resembles nothing short of a wild west of practices and policies relating to how often and how fast child protection systems terminate parental rights. These data also reveal how TPR can unnecessarily delay legal permanency for children, particularly those children who are living with extended family, and how a State pursuing TPR can drain its own scarce resources, a system perpetually decrying insufficient resources. Part II highlights the clinical research showing the need for children to have relationships with their birth parents, even with those who might be unable to care for them. This section also summarizes the research documenting the trauma experienced by parents who have their parental rights terminated, which might impact the parent's ability to care for other children in the future. Part III discusses the unconstitutional features of the child protection system's overutilization of TPR. Well-established principles of constitutional law require courts to search for less restrictive alternatives prior to infringing on individuals' fundamental rights, like the right to direct the care of one's child. Still, child protection systems stubbornly persist in terminating parental rights, a thinly veiled effort held out as a means to achieve legal permanency for children despite TPR being neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve legal permanency for children.

Keywords: children, constitutional law, family court, foster care, termination of parental rights, trauma

Suggested Citation

Sankaran, Vivek and Church, Christopher, The Ties that Bind Us: An Empirical, Clinical, and Constitutional Argument Against Terminating Parental Rights (March 23, 2023). Sankaran & Church (2023), The Ties That Bind Us: An Empirical, Clinical, and Constitutional Argument Against Terminating Parental Rights, Family Court Rev., 61(2), 246-264., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4397994 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4397994

Vivek Sankaran

University of Michigan ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI
United States

Christopher Church (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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