Termination of Parental Rights
These cases arise when a child has come into the custody of the Alexandria Department of Social Services and the parents of the child have failed to take required steps to regain custody of the child within the time set by state and federal law. Children can come into the care of the Department of Social Services through an entrustment, which is a voluntary placement of a child in the custody of Social Services, or as a result of being abused or neglected, being a CHINS, being a delinquent, or as the result of a parent asking to be relieved of the custody of the child.
When the parent fails to take the required steps mentioned above and no family member or close friend of the family expresses to Social Services an interest in caring for the child on a permanent basis, Social Services can then ask the court to take some other action. One action they can request is to have the court terminate or end the rights of the parents to the child so that the child can be adopted. If family members or friends do come forward and show an interest in becoming a permanent caretaker for a child, they must be approved for that placement by Social Services and the judge.
Virginia law spells out the circumstances when the rights of a parent to a child can be terminated. Because this is such a serious action, the Juvenile Court will appoint a separate lawyer for each parent if that person does not have money to pay for a lawyer. This helps to ensure that the rights of the parents are protected in these cases.