In a recent Tennessee Court of Appeals case, the Court reversed a Juvenile Court's termination of parental rights based on DCS's failure to provide reasonable efforts to reunite the family in light of the father's addiction to methamphetamine. In re April F., 2010 WL 4746245, (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 22, 2010). In Tennessee termination cases, the Department of Children's Services is required to show by clear and convincing evidence that it made reasonable efforts to help the parents address their issues and reunite the family.
In this case, the Juvenile Court awarded the termination of parental rights on the basis of persistence of conditions necessitating removal and substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan. These grounds trigger a requirement of reasonable efforts by DCS. When determining reasonableness, the Court looks to the reasons for separating the parents from their children, the parents' mental and physical capabilities, the resources available to parents, the parents' efforts to remedy the conditions that led to removal, and the closeness of the fit between the conditions that led to the children's removal, the contents of the permanency plan, and DCS's efforts.
Here, DCS expected the Father to manage his own recovery. DCS did not provide the Father with a list of treatment services or counseling options, and no one from DCS ensured that the Father obtained treatment after he elected to enter a rehabilitation center. The Court held that DCS did not meet their burden. DCS has an "affirmative duty to help a drug-addicted parent become drug free, even if the parent does not ask for help." Further, the Court stated that DCS must take reasonable steps to address the parents' issues and prevent termination when possible.
This case shows that an affidavit from DCS saying that they exercised reasonable efforts will not always be enough. When the adequacy of DCS's efforts is in dispute, the Department must prove that it did in fact provide reasonable efforts.