Reinstatement of Parental Rights


  • Reinstatement of Parental Rights State Statute Summary
    Every State has statutes providing for the termination of parental rights by a court. Termination of parental rights, which can be voluntary or involuntary, ends the legal parent-child relationship. Once parental rights have been terminated, the child is legally free to be placed for adoption. Approximately nine states have legislation in place that allows for the reinstatement of parental rights following termination of parental rights. If a permanent placement has not been achieved within a specific timeframe, a petition may be filed with the court requesting reinstatement of the parent’s rights. If the court determines that the parent is now able to provide a safe home for the child, the request may be granted. The laws were developed in response to children who were aging out of the foster care system and re-establishing ties with parents and family members. This webpage from the National Conference of State Legislatures includes a chart documenting: State and Statute; Timing of Motion or Petition; Who Can File Motion and Petition; Duties and Authority of the Child Welfare Agency; Standard of Evidence for Reinstatement; Required Court Findings and Duties/Authorities of Court. (Updated as of October 2012)
  • Articles from Rise Magazine
    Rise is a magazine of stories by and for parents affected by the child welfare system. The articles listed below address the topic of reinstatement of parental rights.

Life After TPR: New Laws Give Some Families a Second Chance
In this article by Antoinette Robinson, LaShanda Taylor, associate professor of law at the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law, describes how some states are making it easier for parents and children to stay connected despite termination of parental rights (TPR).

Mission Impossible
In this article, Carla Burks writes about how CPS is helping to reconnect her with her son, even though she lost her parental rights.

A Way Out of No Way
In this article, Carmen Caban writes about how she keeps trying to connect with her daughter despite termination.

  • Reinstating Parental Rights: Another Path to Permanency?
    This article by Susan Getman and Steve Christian examines an innovative approach to permanency for youth in foster care: reinstatement of parental rights. To demonstrate the rationale for this policy, trends are highlighted regarding youth with the goal of alternate planned permanent living arrangements and those who age out of care with no permanent legal connections to adults. The article also looks at data regarding youth who maintain or seek out connections with birth families after emancipation from foster care. The statutes that authorize reinstatement of parental rights are then analyzed. The article concludes with some brief thoughts about what child welfare agencies and courts should consider as they prepare to implement these new statutes. This article is from “Love and Belonging for a Lifetime: Youth Permanency in Child Welfare”, a special issue of Protecting Children, a professional publication of American Humane Association. (Volume 26, Number 1, 2011)
  • Resurrecting Parents of Legal Orphans: Un-Terminating Parental Rights
    Recognizing the need for more uniform solutions to the problems created when a child loses legal rights to his or her biological parents without those rights being replaced through adoption, this article by Lashanda Taylor examines the efforts currently being made to address the increasing number of legal orphans created each year. After recounting both state and individual initiatives, this article proposes that states enact legislation providing for a temporary termination of parental rights order entered after a bifurcated hearing on the parent’s fitness and the child’s best interests. Section I provides a brief overview of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, a federal law enacted in 1997, and its possible impact on the creation of legal orphans. Section II presents an overview of current state efforts to provide a mechanism by which parental rights may be reinstated. Section III explores court responses to individual requests to recreate parent-child relationships after termination of parental rights. Section IV outlines arguments related to res judicata and equal protection that may be used by parents when the court denies standing. Finally, Section V proposes a method of temporarily terminating parental rights which ensures that children do not exit the foster care system without legal parents. Further, this section discusses situations when the option may be most appropriate. (Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law, 2010)
  • A Second Chance for Children and Families: A Model Statute to Reinstate Parental Rights After Termination
    Article in A Not So Happy Birthday: The Foster Youth Transition from Adolescence into Adulthood – Special Issue of Family Court Review
    There are more than half a million children in foster care in the United States. Some of these children are adopted into loving families, but many are considered hard to adopt and never find a permanent family. Research suggests that the outlook for the teens who exit or age out of foster care without a permanent home or a meaningful adult relationship is bleak. They are more likely to face homelessness, joblessness, drug addiction, early pregnancy, mental health problems, and prison time. With such grim statistics, states should explore every possible permanent family resource for youth in foster care. This Note by Randi J. O’Donnell proposes that, in limited circumstances, it is in the best interest of the child to vacate a final order of termination and reinstate parental rights. It calls for states to adopt a model state statute based on the five state statutes [in place at that time] that allow for the reinstatement of parental rights. (Family Court Review, 2010)
  • Restoring Parental Rights: Giving Legal Orphans a Chance at a Family
    Creating legal orphans is a decades-old problem. Recently, legal advocates and judges working with abused and neglected children in California’s child welfare system got creative to solve it. The result was groundbreaking legislation that allows California’s juvenile courts to reinstate parental rights when in a child’s best interest. This article by Cameryn Schmidt and Brenda Dabney suggests that advocates and policymakers nationwide might consider modeling similar efforts on California’s work so that more children have the option of exiting legal orphanhood. (ABA Child Law Practice, 2007)
  • Permanence Can Mean Going Home
    The bond between parents and children, even in families where abuse and neglect occurs, can be quite strong. Children who enter foster care after spending years with their birth family never forget their family of origin, and some never lose the desire to return home. For teens in foster care who lack other permanency resources, connections with birth family members, including those whose rights were legally severed, can be a link to meaningful permanence. This article by Diane Riggs describes when placing a youth back with birth parents can work, how to support birth parent placements, and methods of post-termination of parental rights (TPR) placement. (North American Council on Adoptable Children. Adoptalk, Spring 2006)

Resources from the States

Reinstatement of Parental Rights Policy
This Oklahoma Department of Human Services webpage provides Oklahoma’s policy on reinstatement of parental rights (340:75-1-23.1), as well as instructions to staff. (Issued 3-26-10)

Request by Child for Reinstatement of Terminated Parental Rights
Statute on Reinstatement of Parental Rights. (Effective May 21, 2009)

  • Washington:
    University of Washington Court Improvement Training Academy’s Juvenile Nonoffender Benchbook. Chapter 23: Reinstatement of Parental Rights.
    This chapter addresses Washington State’s Parental Reinstatement Bill (RCW 13.34.215) which provides terminated parents with the option of resuming their status as the legal parent. It includes the following sections: History; Eligibility; Notification to Child; Representation of Child; Preliminary Hearings; Conditional Reinstatement Hearing; Notification to Interested Parties; Burden of Proof; Considerations of the Court; Prior Efforts to Achieve Permanency; Timing; Cause for Dismissal of Petition for Reinstatement; Effect on Prior Termination Order; Child Support Obligations; Applicability.

Teleconferences, Webinars, and Webcasts

  • Reinstating Parental Rights for Youth in Care (Archived NRCPFC Teleconference)
    Despite federal and state laws that require termination of parental rights when a child has remained in foster care for a specified period of time, studies indicate that relationships with their biological parents (and other relatives) are important to children and youth in foster care. Even for children who have become “legal orphans” through the court process, the connection with their biological parent(s) remains central to their development and these children often make efforts to maintain that connection. Once it becomes clear that the purpose for terminating the parental rights (i.e., freeing the child for adoption) will not be fulfilled, in an increasing number of cases, the child, social work agency, or parent has approached the courts asking that the legal relationship between the child and parent be reinstated. This National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections (NRCPFC) teleconference analyzed what some Sates are doing to find permanency for youth in this situation by reinstating one or both of their parents’ parental rights. To achieve this, some biological parents are adopting their birth children. This session provided an overview of the issues, discussed which States have taken legal actions, considered possible solutions, and explored next steps for the field. The archived teleconference includes access to the audio and materials from the event (Agenda and Presenter Information, PowerPoint Presentation, and Annotated Bibliography). (April 2011)


Last updated 11/4/13