Reinstatement of Parental Rights as a Viable Permanency Option
G E O R G I A C H I L D W E L FA R E L E G A L A C A D E M Y
B A RT O N C H I L D L AW & P O L I C Y C E N T E R
E M O RY U N I V E R S I T Y S C H O O L O F L AW
M A R C H 1 7 , 2 0 1 7
P R E S E N T E D B Y M E R C E D E S G . B A L L , E S Q .
REINSTATEMENT OF PARENTAL
RIGHTS AS A VIABLE
PERMANENCY OPTION FOR
GEORGIA’S FOSTER YOUTH
IN THE INTEREST OF MF
• The child’s biological mother voluntarily surrendered her parental rights to the Department of Family and Children
Services (hereinafter referred to as “the Department”) when MF was a toddler. MF was subsequently adopted. MF
re-entered care at the age of 8 after the adoptive mother surrendered her parental rights due to her inability to
manage the child’s behavior and the child’s threats of violence.
• While in the care and legal custody of the Department, MF spent extensive periods of time in several Psychiatric
Residential Treatment Facilities due to ongoing, significant mental health issues. During the seven years the child
remained in foster care, MF received several mental and behavioral health diagnosis including Reactive Attachment
Disorder (RAD). Upon being discharged, MF was placed in at least three different foster homes. Two of the prior
foster placements expressed an interest in adopting MF. Unfortunately, the child was removed from both adoptive
homes because he threatened to kill his adoptive parents. While residing at his third foster placement, MF was
removed after he overdosed on prescription medication; his foster parent accidentally gave him too much medication.
• After so many disruptions and hospitalizations, MF refused any further foster care placements. Although there had
not been any contact since his biological mother surrendered her parental rights, MF stated that he wanted to be
reunited with his biological mother. The case was staffed with the Cold Case Project (CCP) and CCP hired a private
investigator to locate MF’s biological mother. MF’s biological mother expressed a strong interest in reunifying with MF.
The mother submitted to a background check and drug screen. The mother came to Georgia to visit the child; the
visit went well. The Department implemented telephone therapy between the mother and child and MF had a
transitional visit over the Thanksgiving holiday with his mother. The visit was not perfect but the family was committed
• The Child Advocate Attorney filed a Petition to Reinstate Parental Rights on behalf of MF.
IN THE INTEREST OF MF
The Court Found:
• MF’s biological mother was a fit parent and she was no longer abusing
drugs, as was the case when she surrendered, and had adequate and
• MF was 15 years of age and old and mature enough to expressly state
his desire to be reunited with his biological mother.
• Reinstatement of MF’s biological mother would not present a risk to
MF’s health, welfare, or safety, and, based on reports from his therapist
and treatment team, reinstatement of MF’s biological mother’s parental
rights was the best course of action for MF’s behavioral and mental
• MF had been in foster care for 7 years, he had been placed in 2 pre-
adoptive placements, and he refused to be placed in any other pre-
The Court granted the Child Advocate’s Petition to Reinstate Parental
Rights, and MF’s biological mother’s parental rights were restored.
IN THE INTEREST OF JD3
• Sibling Group of three: two boys and one girl. Each child was diagnosed with severe ADHD and one of the children had an
• The children’s biological mother voluntarily surrendered her parental rights so that the children could be adopted by their
maternal grandmother. The children’s adoptive mother surrendered her parental rights. The children were taken into protective
custody by the Department due to severe emotional and physical abuse at the hands of their adoptive mother: children
disclosed that they had been beaten, tied up and locked in a closet, and deprived of food.
• Over the course of five years in foster care, all of the children had adoptive resources at some point in time, but eventually their
adoptive parents decided the children’s behavior and special needs were more than they were willing to manage. Two of the
children experienced numerous placement disruptions and frequent stays at psychiatric residential facilities. The oldest child
had placement stability but had to be removed due to the foster parent’s unwillingness to commit to adoption.
• After staffing the case with the Cold Case Project, all parties decided to speak with each child to determine if they were open to
being reunited with their biological mother. Each child was interviewed separately by both their Case Manager and Child
Advocate Attorney and each child expressed their desire for reunification. The Cold Case Project located the children’s
biological mother in Louisiana and the Department made contact with her.
• The Children’s biological mother was excited at the prospect of reunifying with her children and carried a lot of guilt for
surrendering her parental rights. The biological mother and her husband submitted to drug screens and criminal background
checks. She visited the children in Georgia on two occasions. Phone contact was also implemented and telephone therapy
occurred weekly. The children also participated in an extended three-week visit at their mother and step-father’s home in
IN THE INTEREST OF JD3
• The Child Advocate filed a Petition to Reinstate Parental Rights on behalf of
the children. The Department consented to the reinstatement.
• The Court found:
- The children’s biological mother was a fit parent, capable of
meeting the needs of each of the children, and had stable and
-The children were 14, 15, and 16 and had each expressed a
strong desire to be reunified with their biological mother.
-Reinstating the children’s biological mother’s rights would not
pose a risk to the children’s health, welfare, or safety because the
children’s biological mother was familiar with the care that each
child needed and had made significant efforts to establish the
appropriate services for each child in Louisiana.
-The children had been in the Department’s custody for 5 years and
had each been in unsuccessful pre-adoptive placements.
The Court granted the Child Advocate’s Petition to Reinstate Parental Rights,
and the children were reunited with their biological mother.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR ATTORNEYS
• Is the child likely to be adopted? Is adoption really in the
child’s best interest?
• Has the biological parent cured the underlying issues
that led to termination or voluntary surrender of parental
• What are the recommendations of the child’s therapeutic
providers and/or treatment team?
• Would the child be safe and stable in the care and legal
custody of his/her biological parent?
• What does the child want?
MERCEDES G. BALL, ESQ.
DEKALB COUNTY CHILD ADVOCACY CENTER