Natural parents can take advantage of court-sponsored counseling services when facing termination of their parental rights. 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 any adoption of a minor taking place, the rights of the natural parent(s) must be terminated. This is a permanent termination and accordingly, the courts take all necessary steps to ensure that the natural parents understand the gravity of the situation and have a chance to discuss with a qualified professional. A portion of the filing fees paid to the court for adoption/termination proceedings goes to support that county’s counseling fund and subsidize the costs for counseling where the natural parent(s) desire to participate but are unable to afford it.
It is the court’s responsibility to confirm 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 requires proof of valid service of the proceedings to the parents. The required notice for termination hearings does make it clear that natural parents have a right to appear at the hearing but if they fail to do so their rights can be terminated by the court. The notice also informs natural parents of their right to seek an attorney and strongly advises that they do so.