Each State Terminates Parental Rights Differently

How One Family Fought CPS

The Associated Press recently highlighted the varied standards and outcomes nationwide for termination of parental rights.[1] According to the data provided there from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington State in 2014 had 10,630 children in out-of-home care, with 1,733 of those having a termination of parental rights. That percentage (~16.3%) is essentially the same as the nationwide average (~15.5%, with 64,398 of the 415,129 total children in out-home-care having termination of parental rights). States vary from 3.5% in Maryland to 30% in Texas. Washington’s standards for the filing of termination petitions is found in RCW 13.34.180.

One of the many causes of these disparities is the amount of funding states make available for services that help keep families together, such as “quality child-care programs, mental health care and drug treatment programs.” Additionally, some feel there is a “culture of bias” against a biological parent once a termination proceeding is initiated. Such biases presumably vary widely depending on the political makeup and culture of each state.

Balancing a parent’s fundamental rights with a child’s need to a safe, stable and nurturing permanent environment is a hugely complex issue, and it’s clear states have struck that balance in much different ways despite federal guidelines that aim to provide some degree of uniformity.

[1] [Crary, David. “Terminating Parental Rights: State Policies Vary Widely.” AP.org. N.p., 30 Apr. 2016. Web. 



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