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Blogs | May 8, 2015
3 minute read

COA holds that a parent’s failure and inability to protect children from abuse supports termination of that parent’s rights

In In re Gonzales & Martinez, No. 324168, the Court of Appeals held that, although the abuser of a mother’s two children was in jail and likely to be deported, the mother still showed an inability to protect them from future abuse; therefore, her parental rights were properly terminated.

The respondent in this case had her parental rights terminated after a hearing before a referee. Her rights were terminated based on clear and convincing evidence satisfying the following statutes:

    The state provided clear and convincing evidence on each of these points. First, there was evidence, including testimony from the children, that the children were sexually abused by the respondent’s boyfriend. The respondent called one child a liar regarding the sexual abuse, apparently “coached” the other child’s response to questions about the abuse, and maintained a relationship with the allegedly-abusive boyfriend. Her reluctance to end the dating relationship in the face of alleged abuse was enough to satisfy Section 19b(3)(b)(ii).

    The respondent argued that her rights should not be terminated under Section 19b(3)(b)(ii), because her boyfriend was in jail at the time of the hearing and was likely to be deported. But the Court of Appeals was not merely concerned with repeated abuse by the boyfriend. Instead, the Court of Appeals held that the respondent’s failure to protect her children from sexual abuse showed a “reasonable likelihood that the [children] will suffer injury or abuse in the foreseeable future if placed in the parent’s home.” MCL 712A.19b(3)(b)(ii).

    The Court of Appeals listed a litany of reasons why the respondent’s rights were justly terminated under Sections 19b(3)(g) and (3)(j). The respondent had several times tested positive for cocaine use; she also failed to follow through with substance-abuse and mental-health treatments. She was unemployed and received social security disability as her only income. She was living with an 83-year-old man, who told the respondent’s caseworker that they were sexually active together. Finally, the respondent had criminal charges pending against her. All of this added up to a “failure to provide proper care or custody” and a “reasonable likelihood” that the children would be harmed if they returned to respondent’s home.  The Court of Appeals, therefore, held that the trial court did not err in terminating the respondent’s parental rights.