2001 Jordan Institute
Advice About TPR
asked current and former child welfare supervisors what they thought
social workers and supervisors should know and understand about TPR,
over and above the legal and procedural details covered in Termination
of Parental Rights: Legal Issues. Here’s what they had to say.
Start planning for TPR as
a possible outcome the day the case is substantiated. Talk with parents
about TPR as soon as a child enters DSS custody, and as a regular
part of meeting with parents afterwards. TPR should never be a surprise
Use lifebooks with every
child as soon as the child is placed in foster care. This will help
a child understand and cope with placement and, if necessary, relinquishment
Understand that TPR is
both an event and a process. It may happen officially on a certain
day in court, but it is also a process that begins when a case is
Know about the family.
This is especially important in situations when you are involved in
a TPR but were not part of the initial decision to seek termination.
If you do not fully understand your agency’s decision you will not
be able to present or adequately defend this decision. As a result
you may feel quite conflicted.
- Seek all the guidance and support you can
get, especially from your supervisor and experienced peers.
Actively pursue training
and formal learning about reaching closure with families, preparing
children for TPR, and TPR itself. This topic is addressed in some
detail in Legal Aspects of Child Welfare in North Carolina and
Case Building Toward Permanence, courses offered by the NCDSS
Children’s Services Statewide Training Partnership.
Observe a contested TPR
hearing where you can observe cross examination, etc., before
you have to prepare for a TPR hearing.
Know the law and the entire
TPR process. Keep abreast of policy changes.
Frequently review relevant
laws and state policies with your staff.
Constantly review your
staff’s caseload; make sure they are aware of the grounds for TPR.
This is of greater significance today because of the new law, which
gives workers 60 days to draft a petition for TPR after they are relieved
of reunification efforts. Supervisors must ensure that things are
in order with these cases, and verify that there are indeed grounds
Special thanks to the
following for their contributions to this article: Rhoda Ammons, NC Division
of Social Services, Velvet Nixon, Wilson Co. DSS, Ann Oshel, UNC-CH School
of Social Work, Kathy Stone, Wilson Co. DSS, and Nina Wright, Wake Co.
2001 Jordan Institute for Families