Washington Law Review


The federal Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 recognized that in certain egregious circumstances, states need not seek to reunify a family before terminating the rights of abusive and neglectful parents. Washington State responded by revising its termination of parental rights statute to treat parents' violent criminal convictions as sole grounds for terminating parental rights. This Comment argues that the Washington statute should be further amended to recognize that a termination of rights to a previous child may serve as grounds for terminating rights to a present child if the State finds the parent's continuing behavior puts the child at risk for abuse or neglect. Washington courts have already recognized that parents who have mistreated children are likely to continue to do so. Furthermore, other state laws that treat prior terminations as sufficient proof of a parent's present unfitness have been justified on public policy grounds and upheld under constitutional scrutiny. This Comment concludes that the proposed statutory revision is constitutional because the compelling State interest in protecting children outweighs the rights of abusive and neglectful parents, and the Washington statute is already extremely protective of parents' due process rights.

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