The California Court of Appeals has issused an unpublished opinion that is an excellent case study of the relationship between poverty and termination of parental rights. A presumed father's parental rights had been terminated because he was unable to provide a stable home for his children, even though he had been an involved, caring father and the child protective services had found no harm or threat of harm to them at any time. The court of appeals reversed the termination, holding that the trial court must find that a presumed father is unfit before terminating parental rights. The court commented:
DCFS may not bootstrap the fact that Gerardo was too poor to afford housing, which would not have served as a legitimate ground for removing the boys in the first place, to support findings of detriment, all of which flow directly from the circumstances of Gerardo's poverty and his concomitant willingness to leave his sons in his family's care while he stayed close, maintained familial ties and worked to raise rent money. This is particularly so when DCFS might have assisted Gerardo to obtain affordable housing, but made no effort to do so....It is not up to Gerardo to prove he is a fit parent. Rather, it is up to DCFS to satisfy its constitutional burden to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that he is not.
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Family Law Prof Blog: Case Law Development: Poverty Not A Basis for Termination of Parental Rights