South Carolina Court of Appeals Decisions for May 12, 2015

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On Tuesday, May 12th, 2015, the South Carolina Court of Appeals published a decision in SCDSS V. Williams. This was an appeal from the family court order terminating the parental rights of Sheronda Williams (“Mother”) to her eight year old daughter (“Child”).

DSS placed Child in emergency protective custody after receiving a report of physical signs of abuse on Child. Following removal, it was determined that Child had been sexually abused by an unknown perpetrator. After a clinical evaluation, Mother was determined to have symptoms suggestive of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and that Child may have a similar psychiatric disorder. Testimony at trial indicted that it would not be in Child’s best interest to be placed back with Mother, but unsure if Child could be successfully adopted by an individual competent to handle Child’s behavioral issues. The Guardian Ad Litem (“GAL”) recommended that the Mother’s rights be terminated in order to allow the child to move foward and possibly be placed with a family permantly. The GAL did not believe Father’s rights should be terminated. The family court granted TPR, citing statutory grounds and finding it to be in the best interest of Child.

On appeal, Mother argues:  (1) termination of parental rights (“TPR”) was not in Child’s best interest and (2) the permanency plan adopted by the family court does not address Child’s needs or interests and should be modified.

After reviewing the findings of the family court, the Court determined that TPR was not in Child’s best interest. The Court found that although the Child would not be able to return to Mother’s home, TPR would have no benefit at this time. Terminating Mother’s parental rights while continuing to explore placement with Father does not improve Child’s future. Further, as long as Father retains parental rights, Child is not free for adoption. The Court reasoned that TPR is “premature because no viable plan gives Child the family she desperately craves. To deprive her of her own family and give her nothing in return is no in her best interest.” Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for a permanency planning hearing.

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