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© 2001 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol.6, No. 1
February 2001

Advice About TPR

Practice Notes 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.

Social Workers

  • 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 to parents.

  • 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 or TPR.

  • 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 substantiated.

  • 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 for TPR.
  • If the plan is to seek TPR, ensure that every effort is made to attain adoption or another permanent outcome for the child in question.

  • Be available to your staff. Offer support, guidance, and direction. In TPR cases this can take the form of attending the hearing with your worker.

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. DSS.


© 2001 Jordan Institute for Families