The Timing of Termination of Parental Rights: A Balancing Act for Children’s Best Interests


Child Trends

Termination of parental rights (TPR) has been an ongoing subject of discussion among judicial and child welfare professionals in terms of its aftermath and whether its consequences are healthy for children in foster care. According to this study on TPR, concerns have focused on the risks of terminating rights before identifying an adoptive family and whether that would raise the chances that an individual will stay in foster care until adulthood rather than being adopted.

Delaying TPR has also raised concerns, because in some states, the search for adoptive families cannot begin until parental rights have been terminated. At the same time, there is fear that responsible adoptive families may feel reluctant to care for children who may still have birth family ties.

These issues were discussed in phone interviews with a sample of 20 judges from 18 different states. Some judges were concerned about the potential risks of accelerated TPR, including more legal orphans, as well as the lack of adoptive families for children in foster care. Other issues that judges felt make TPR decisions more difficult included the opposition of children to adoption and the loss of birth family ties.

This research case also discusses several issues regarding adoption, including: the advantages of relevant professionals understanding children’s views on TPR and adoption; ways for foster children to stay connected to their birth families in order to support their adoption process; and the importance of judges being informed of adoptive family recruitment efforts. Free, 13 pages. (202) 572-6000,



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