The DC Court of Appeals in IN RE J.M. & D.M. decided on September 20, 2018, affirmed the trial court findings that the permanency goal change to adoption was appropriate, however clarified to certain degree the procedural appeal when the goal change request is a dual-goal, to both reunification and adoption.

The Court’s Decision in IN RE TAL in 2016 required and bestowed on parents in a child abuse and neglect proceedings facing a goal change an evidentiary hearing. Specifically, to justify a goal change from reunification to adoption:

…the District “must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that [(1)] it has provided the parents with a reasonable plan for achieving reunification, that [(2)] it expended reasonable efforts to help the parents ameliorate the conditions that led to the child being adjudicated neglected, and that [(3)] the parents have failed to make adequate progress towards satisfying the requirements of that plan.”

The Court of Appeals here while affirming the lower court, and the goal change, provided guideline when the goal change request is a dual goal.   That is, a dual goal of reunification and adoption.

Under these circumstances, it appears that the Court is suggesting that a TAL hearing should be held even when the goal change request is a dual goal.

In the cases, the Court of Appeals instructed:

…while acknowledging that the trial court may establish

“concurrent goals of reunification and adoption,” the en banc majority envisioned that a Ta.L. hearing will “enable parents to present any other evidence that they believe supports a decision to continue with reunification efforts” and that will avoid “a permanency goal decision that might lead to a situation that destroys family bonds.”

The appeal of the TAL decision, however, would take effect when the case reaches the single goal status, that is adoption only.

Specifically, the Court held:

— Nevertheless, because the change from concurrent goals of reunification and adoption to a sole goal of adoption presumably has “allow[ed] the District to divert . . . resources from reunification to adoption,” id., we conclude that the holding of Ta.L., allowing an immediate appeal of a permanency-goal change to adoption, applies in the circumstances of this case. –

Thus a request for dual goal or concurrent change triggers a TAL hearing request, however, the final order appeal of the TAL decision would be mature and ripe when the final single goal is established.

The Court of Appeals also clarified that failure of a parent signing a case plan does not render the case plan per se unreasonable or ineffective.

That a referral list to therapeutic services may be sufficient in certain circumstances to show reasonable efforts by the government toward reunification.

The TAL test of reasonableness is not whether there was anything more that CFSA could have done, but whether the Agency’s case planning and efforts were reasonable and diligent under the circumstances of this case.

Refer to our TAL BLOG for more information on this topic.

Please refer our DC Family Lawyer page for more information on this topic in general.

Categories: Family Law.