Each county is responsible for keeping a list of qualified counselors who are available to assist natural parents contemplating voluntary relinquishment or facing involuntary termination of their parental rights. Prior to an adoption taking place, the rights of the natural parent(s) must be terminated. This is a permanent act and accordingly, the courts ensure that the natural parents understand and have a chance to discuss with a qualified professional. A portion of the filing fees paid to the court for adoption/termination proceedings go towards supporting that county’s counseling fund which subsidizes the costs for counseling where the natural parent(s) desire to participate but are unable to afford it.
The court should inquire as to whether the natural parent(s) had an opportunity to utilize counseling services if they appear at the termination hearing. If the natural(s) have not received any counseling, the court can postpone a decision on termination to allow the natural parent(s) an opportunity to seek counseling. If the natural parents are not present, the court at least expects proof of valid notice of the proceedings on the parents. The required notice does make it clear that they have a right to appear at the hearing and if they fail to do so their rights can be terminated by the court. The notice also apprises natural parents of their right to seek an attorney and strongly advises that they do so.