In Re Welfare of A.B.: The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision, stating that cognitive impairments alone are not parenting deficiencies.
By Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski, family lawyers
E.I. is the mother of A.B. Her parental rights were terminated after the juvenile court found that she had cognitive impairments that would prevent her from parenting A.B. on her own. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, finding that cognitive impairments alone are not parenting deficiencies and DSHS had failed to meet its burden of proving parental unfitness.
Identifying parenting deficiencies is not the equivalent of proving parental unfitness. While identifying deficiencies is sufficient to support a dependency, the constitution requires that the state prove that the deficiencies prevent the parent with providing the child with “basic nurture, health or safety” by clear, cogent and convincing evidence. The impairments, said the Court of Appeals, must present an immediate or severe risk to the child’s safety.
Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski practice family law in Olympia, Washington with the law firm of Connolly Tacon & Meserve.
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