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September 25, 2009

COA Opinion: The advantages of foster care may be considered when deciding whether termination of parental rights would be in the best interests of the child

In In re Foster, Nos. 289345 & 289346 (published Sept. 24, 2009, after earlier unpublished release), the Court of Appeals addressed the impact of foster care placement when determining whether to terminate parental rights under MCL ' 712A.19b. Under MCL ' 712A.19b(5), "[i]f the court finds [1] that there are grounds for termination of parental rights and [2] that termination of parental rights is in the child's best interests, the court shall order termination of parental rights." The parents argued that the trial court improperly considered the facts of the child's foster care (the child had been developing well in foster care and his foster parents wanted to adopt him) when determining if the statutory "grounds for termination" were met. The Court of Appeals disagreed, concluding that the trial court had not weighed the child's foster care as a ground for termination, but had instead relied upon a proper statutory ground: that "[t]he conditions that led to the adjudication continue to exist and there is no reasonable likelihood that the conditions will be rectified within a reasonable time considering the child's age." MCL ' 712A.19b(3)(c)(i). Furthermore, when looking at the second half of the termination evaluation—"that termination of parental rights is in the child's best interests"—the trial court properly examined the foster care situation.

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