Texas Supreme Court Expands Reasons for Termination of Parental Rights

If a parent is accused of abusing only one child, can that parent’s rights to another child be terminated?  Today, the Texas Supreme Court decided the answer to that question was “yes.”

The Texas Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case In The Interest of E.C.R., arising from a lawsuit in Houston.  The mother’s parental rights had been terminated regarding a child after his mother was accused of abusing his older sister.  The mother appealed that there not sufficient grounds to support her removal as parent of that child, since she had not been accused of abusing him.  The Supreme Court held that the standards for removing a child for abuse or neglect encompass the risks or threats in the child’s environment, which includes harm suffered or danger faced by other children under the parent’s care.  The Court noted that the statutory standard found repeatedly throughout Family Code chapter 262 is “danger to the physical health or safety of the child.”   The court decided that phrase is also centered on risk, rather than just a history of actual abuse or neglect.