Fact Finding Hearing In Parental Rights Termination Proceedings

In Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 71 L. Ed. 2d 599, 102 S. Ct. 1388 (1982), the United States Supreme Court noted that "the factfinding stage of a state-initiated permanent neglect proceeding bears many of the indicia of a criminal trial." Santosky, 455 U.S. at 762, 71 L. Ed. 2d at 612, 102 S. Ct. at 1399. The Court in Santosky examined parental rights termination proceedings in the State of New York. The Court listed the following elements of a New York parental rights termination proceeding that resemble a criminal trial: "The Commissioner of Social Services charges the parents with permanent neglect. They are served by summons. The factfinding hearing is conducted pursuant to formal rules of evidence. The State, the parents, and the child are all represented by counsel. The State seeks to establish a series of historical facts about the intensity of its agency's efforts to reunite the family, the infrequency and insubstantiality of the parents' contacts with their child, and the parents' inability or unwillingness to formulate a plan for the child's future. The attorneys submit documentary evidence, and call witnesses who are subject to cross-examination. Based on all the evidence, the judge then determines whether the State has proved the statutory elements of permanent neglect " Santosky, 455 U.S. at 762, 71 L. Ed. 2d at 612, 102 S. Ct. at 1399. Proceedings in Illinois to terminate parental rights contain all of the elements the Supreme Court referred to in Santosky. See 705 ILCS 405/1--5, 2--13, 2--15, 2--18, 2--21(5) (West 1998).