Parental Agreement On Child Placement

We propose that ORS 419B.192 be amended to prohibit the placement of a child into a relative placement that is inconsistent with the beliefs, values, customs or protective stance of the biological parent/s. It is well recognized that families hold private and personal information wherein personal safety threats may not have been subject to law enforcement nor child welfare involvement; be it domestic violence, sexual abuse, substance abuse, etc. The absence of criminal background does not and should not stand in place of parental rights to make protective decisions on behalf of children to allow or disallow non-nuclear family relationships that are against the express wishes of the parent.

Oregon had attempted to create Grandparent visitation rights in the past, but the statute creating those rights was repealed after the landmark decisions in Troxel v. Granville,530 U.S. 57 (2000) .   In the Troxel case the United States Supreme Court determined that parents have a constitutional right to rear their children free from the intervention of the State or a third party under normal circumstances. Legally there is a presumption that a parent acts in the best interest of their children so a parent's decision to limit visitation with a grandparent is presumed to be correct until proven otherwise and in examining the parent's decision the court must give great weight or great deference to the parent's decision and right to make that decision.

Policy and juvenile code assert that DHS should not utilize temporary custody to make long-term or permanent changes to a child while in temporary state custody. A parent that maintains parental rights should not be deprived of making protective decisions on behalf of their children. Parents continue to hold a legal interest in ensuring that their children are maintained as to their beliefs, values, customs, protective decisions. Further, parents hold a natural right to protect their children from individuals that they believe to be dangers and against the welfare rights of their children. 

Oregon DHS holds a long history of inserting themselves into high-conflict family dynamics and acting within the role of “third” parent; the law prohibits such behavior. Time and again we see DHS knowingly and intentionally working with known safety threats, thereby placing their inappropriate alliances above the actual rights and safety of dependent children. As an example: Oregon DHS aligned with a proven domestic abuser that had been subject to two years of consecutive Domestic Violence Orders of Protection, a Lifetime Restraining Order, Relocation Without Notice, and a Sealed Name Change. These orders had been sought and granted on behalf of a protective mother on behalf of herself and the children. Subsequently this mother and her children had been protected from any and all contact from the abusive father. The abuser then conspired with the grandmother, and brought forth claims of medical child abuse. The grandmother, like the father, had a proven history of child abuse.

DHS then took the children, placed them with the grandmother, violated the protective orders and allowed the restricted father to illegally access the children. In essence, DHS assumed custody of three minor children stating that potential threats of harm existed with biological custodial mother, and then subjected the three children to proven abusers under the guise of protecting them. Not only is this unlawful, but it also represented such obvious and clear actions against the best interest of the children; and it was done so against the will and rights of the mother. This violation will now be subject to civil litigation.

We believe it is essential to the best interest of children that DHS and parents work cooperatively together to resolve cases. While we recognize that not every parent is cooperative and/or able and willing to rehabilitate, however parents hold due process rights that ensure that they are provided legal processes by which to do so. It is of the utmost importance that the safety concerns, placement desires, and essential decision making of parents be protected and respected by DHS. 

Family Rights Foundation proposes the following amendment to ORS 419B.192:

If the court finds that a child or ward is in need of placement or continuation in substitute care, there shall be a preference given to placement of the child or ward with relatives and persons who have a caregiver relationship with the child or ward as defined in ORS 419B.116 (Intervention). The Department of Human Services shall be prohibited from placing children or wards into a relative and/or caregiver placements that is against the will of the parents. The Department of Human Services shall work cooperatively with parents to identify and locate agreeable and suitable kin and kith relatives and/or caregivers for placement. The Department of Human Services shall make diligent efforts to place the child or ward with such persons and shall report to the court the efforts made by the department to effectuate that placement.

(2)If a child or ward in need of placement or continuation in substitute care has a sibling also in need of placement or continuation in substitute care, the department shall make diligent efforts to place the siblings together and shall report to the court the efforts made by the department to carry out the placement, unless the court finds that placement of the siblings together is not in the best interests of the child or the ward or the child’s or the ward’s sibling.

(3)In attempting to place the child or ward pursuant to subsections (1) and (2) of this section, the department shall consider, but not be limited to considering, the following:

(a)The ability of the person being considered to provide safety for the child or ward, including a willingness to cooperate with any restrictions placed on contact between the child or ward and others, and to prevent anyone from influencing the child or ward in regard to the allegations of the case;
(b)The ability of the person being considered to support the efforts of the department to implement the permanent plan for the child or ward;
(c)The ability of the person being considered to meet the child or ward’s physical, emotional and educational needs, including the child or ward’s need to continue in the same school or educational placement;
(d)Which person has the closest existing personal relationship with the child or ward if more than one person requests to have the child or ward placed with them pursuant to this section; and
(e)The ability of the person being considered to provide a placement for the child’s or ward’s sibling who is also in need of placement or continuation in substitute care.
 
(4) The Department shall not place children or wards into the care of relative caregivers against the express wishes of the parent. Instead the Department shall work with parents to identify safe and suitable relative caregivers.

(5)When the court is required to make findings regarding the department’s diligent efforts to place a child or ward with relatives or persons with a caregiver relationship under subsection (1) of this section, and the court determines that, contrary to the placement decision of the department, placement with a relative is not in the best interest of the child or ward under ORS 419B.349 (Court authority to review placement or proposed placement), the court shall make written findings setting forth the reasons why the court finds that placement of the child or ward with an available relative is not in the best interest of the child.

(6)Notwithstanding subsections (1) to (3) of this section, in cases where the Indian Child Welfare Act applies, the placement preferences of the Indian Child Welfare Act shall be followed. [1997 c.479 §4; 1999 c.569 §9; 2003 c.396 §43; 2005 c.449 §1; 2005 c.521 §2; 2007 c.806 §5; 2009 c.565 §1]