Case Name: In re Jones

Holding that the trial court did not clearly err in finding that §§ 19b(3)(g) and (h) were established by clear and convincing evidence, the court affirmed the trial court’s order terminating the respondent-father’s parental rights to the minor child. The evidence showed that respondent was incarcerated since the child was three months old. Respondent did not arrange for an alternate caretaker to prevent the child’s placement in foster care and instead denied paternity of and responsibility for the child. He repeatedly violated prison rules, which caused him to spend a significant amount of time in segregation and prevented him from participating in services to prepare for reunification. At the time of termination, the mother’s parental rights had been terminated, and respondent’s earliest release date was almost two years away. The court concluded that the trial court’s finding that respondent was unlikely to be released when first eligible was not clearly erroneous in light of his poor prison record. He also would have to establish housing, find a source of income, and show an ability to take care of the child before he could be considered for placement. The court also held that respondent’s claim he was not provided with reunification services lacked merit. Until a putative father establishes legal paternity, he is not entitled to services. Respondent became the father on 1/5/11 when the trial court determined that he had parental rights by declaring him to be the father. The petitioner established a service plan for him, “but he was rarely available to participate in prison services because he was in and out of segregation due to his misconduct.” Full Text Opinion
Comment by C. Enright: This fact situation differentiates the case from In re Mason, which says parental rights cannot be terminated merely because a parent is incarcerated.

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