PARK Act

Permanency for At-Risk Kids Act

All legislation in the PARK Act is designed to ensure permanency for children who are at risk of being unnecessarily left in the foster care system and apart from their forever families.

This act will

  1. Prevent the termination of a minor parent’s parental rights from being used as grounds against them as adults.
  2. Provide a clear definition to “maintaining a significant parental relationship” in the adoption code.
  3. Give mandatory standing in juvenile court to non-relative caregivers after they have kept the child in their home for 12 months.
  4. Remove harmful delays from termination of parental rights (TPR) timelines.
  5. Set time limits for when inattentive relatives can petition for a foster child, if the foster parents plan on adopting the child.
  6. Add bonding to non-biological parents as grounds for TPR, if at least one other grounds for TPR is found.

Contact your Alabama legislator and let them know that you want them to vote for the PARK Act.

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I. Prevent the termination of a minor parent’s parental rights from being used as grounds against them as adults

If TPR occurs against a minor parent, that TPR should not be used against them in cases involving future children. Minor parents may be able to successfully parent future children. Other areas of law allow juvenile records to be sealed. In addition to protecting the minor parent, this helps ensure permanency for the at risk child of the minor parent, by changing a law that motivated the minor parents to fight TPR even when the parent might not have otherwise.

Additions in bold. Deletions in strikethrough.

II. Provide clear definition to “maintaining a significant parental relationship” in the adoption code.

The Alabama Adoption Code provides for implied consent, but the courts have had an inconsistent interpretation of § 26-10A-9(4) with regards to “maintaining a significant parental relationship”. These changes add clarity and allow adoptive parents to achieve permanency for their children when the biological parents fail to maintain a relationship with the child. Note that (4)(a) and (b) below use the same wording as grounds for TPR, § 12-15-319 (a) (10) and (11).

Additions in bold. Deletions in strikethrough.

III. Give mandatory standing in juvenile court to caregivers after having the child in their home for 12 months.

The people who have actually had a child in their care are best equipped to understand and seek the best interests of the child. Making them a party to the case adds further protection of the child.

Additions in bold. Deletions in strikethrough.

IV. Remove harmful delays from TPR timelines

The current TPR timeline has an opportunity for a significant delay. The PARK act ensures permanency for children in a timely manner by closing this gap. The current timeline is:
  • 12 months – DHR must file TPR for children in foster care for 12 of 22 months. §12-15-317 (1)
  • 45 days – To complete service of process. §12-15-318 (b)
  • 90 days or more – If service of process has not been completed, the petitioner (usually DHR) requests service by publication. This step is very commonly required. The judge has no timeline to answer the motion for publication, except the general rule that motions are denied if not answered in 90 days.
  • 4 weeks – For publication. §12-15-318 (d)
  • 90 days – To complete the TPR trial. §12-15-320 (a)
  • 30 days – To enter a final order. §12-15-320 (a)

Additions in bold. Deletions in strikethrough.

V. Set time limits for when inattentive relatives can petition for a foster child, if the foster parents plan on adopting the child

Sadly, it is all too common in foster care that a child’s relatives will not come forward until the last moment when TPR is imminent, after the child has established and adjusted to life in a new family. This law will encourage the best interests of the child by requiring relatives to come forward to care for the child soon after they are placed in foster care.

Additions in bold. Deletions in strikethrough.

VI. Add bonding to non-biological parents as grounds for TPR

If at least one other grounds for TPR is found, the court may consider bonding to current caregivers as additional grounds for TPR, if the child has been in the caregiver’s home for 12 or more months and evidence of the child’s bonding to the caregivers is presented. This protects children whose biological parents are unfit to care for them and have already formed another family relationship.

Additions in bold. Deletions in strikethrough.

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