When it comes to their children, parents will move mountains to keep them safe and happy. Parents sacrifice their own time, money, and freedom to ensure that their kids are taken care of. But when parents get into trouble with the law, their rights to their children can be jeopardized. Parents who are incarcerated often lose custody of their children to the foster care system, which can incentivize fast-track adoptions of children in the system. If you are a parent facing criminal charges, it is important to give yourself the best criminal defense possible and protect your parental rights.
Adoption and Safe Families Act Can Hurt Convicted Parents
The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) is a piece of legislation enacted in the 1990s to help children in the foster care system get adopted. While that is a laudable goal, the actual effect of the Act has led to caring and capable parents having their rights to their children stripped because of their criminal records.
PBS recently did a story about the people affected by ASFA around the country, including a father whose daughter was born to a mother who tested positive for drugs at birth. The state intervened and decided neither parent was fit to raise the child. The father's rights were terminated because of past violent convictions, even though he had been out of prison for six years, had steady employment, and what could be considered a successful life post-prison.
Termination of Parental Rights and Criminal Records
Under ASFA, parents whose children have been in foster care for 15 of the previous 22 months can be eligible to have their parental rights terminated. A parent, by law, has a legal relationship with their child. They are responsible for taking care of the child, have the right to make decisions for the child, and have the right to access the child. When a parent's rights are terminated, this legal relationship ceases to exist and the parent no longer has any rights to or responsibilities for the child. The child is then eligible to be adopted by any suitable person.
A parent's rights can be involuntarily terminated if the state can show abuse or neglect on the part of the parent and prove that it is in the child's best interests to end the relationship with the parent. The parent has the right to fight this termination in court and prove that they are not abusive or neglectful, but this can be a difficult process. In New Jersey, having a conviction for some types of crimes can make the involuntary termination process much faster.
Protect Your Parental Rights With a Solid Criminal Defense Team
One of the main problems with ASFA is that it rushes the involuntary termination process in favor of quick adoptions out of the foster care system. As a result, parents who are facing convictions even for things unrelated to child abuse and neglect can find themselves swept up in a fast-moving process while they are incarcerated or unfairly judged as unfit parents even years after their release.
The best option for parents is to attempt to avoid the issues that ASFA can cause by retaining the experienced criminal defense team at the Lento Law Firm. Premier New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento fights for all of his client's rights and will provide you with a thorough and passionate defense. Retain the Lento Law Firm Team today by calling 888.535.3686.