Most of us have heard stories about parents who for one reason or another—and often many reasons combined—were the subject of an investigation by child protective agencies. It is possible, as you are most likely aware, for such investigations to result in the termination of parental rights if the situation is found to present serious danger to the children. Agencies like the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) are tasked with keeping children safe even if it means separating them from their parents in some cases.
While protecting children is certainly an admirable and necessary goal, is it possible for agencies and family courts to go too far? A recent decision by a family court judge in New York has raised that exact question.
Limits on Future Pregnancy
Judge Patricia Gallaher issued a court order in December that directed a Rochester, NY, woman to avoid getting pregnant again. The woman—a known prostitute—had already lost custody of her four children based on findings of neglect. In her order, the judge stated that the woman was not to get pregnant again until she had regained custody of her infant son.
The judge indicated that her order was meant to increase the mother’s chances of rehabilitation from drug addiction. She maintained that if the woman were to have another baby, it would decrease the likelihood of her getting clean and being reunited with her little boy. The order also mandated that the state cover the mother’s birth control expenses. The consequences for failing to comply with the order were not made clear, but the judge stated that the woman would not face jail time for getting pregnant.
Many in the legal community believe that the order violates the mother’s constitutional rights. It is one thing to limit a person’s parental responsibilities and parenting time, they contend, but quite another to decide whether or not a person is allowed to procreate. According to various reports, the woman intends to appeal the ruling, and the New York Civil Liberties Union may offer assistance in the appeal. Similar orders have been overturned in the past, but it remains to be seen how this situation will ultimately unfold.
Protecting Parents’ Rights
At Cosley Law Office, we understand the importance of protecting children. Terminating a person’s parental rights is an extremely serious matter and must be done in accordance with existing laws and legal precedents. If you are the subject of a DCFS investigation and are concerned that your rights may be in jeopardy, contact an experienced Arlington Heights family law attorney immediately. Call 847-253-3100 for a free consultation today.