It's a sad truth, but from time to time, the courts have no choice but to cut the ties between parent and child. It's even sadder when they ties have to be severed between the child and both parents. Such cases are exceptionally rare, which is why rulings like DCPP v. P.D. and A.W. are worth noting. This tragic case involved a child, SD, who was born addicted to crack cocaine. In addition, the adults in the home, including her mother, were regularly abusing drugs and alcohol. DCPP removed SD from the home and filed a complaint for custody and supervision. After the mother, AW, agreed that she had neglected the child, SD was placed in the care of her maternal relatives. In the meanwhile, a paternity test proved that PD was SD's father, but he had a bad relationship with the maternal relatives who were caring for SD. As a result, he was limited to supervised visits held at the DCPP offices.
AW did eventually regain physical custody, and was ordered to share legal custody with PD. Things became problematic when PD stopped attending court-ordered programs, and was later charged with aggravated assault. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison, and was deported back to his home country of Cape Verde, Africa. Several years later, DCPP was notified of a domestic violence incident between AW and her partner. SD was removed and PD was notified of the child's placement with the same maternal relatives that has taken care of her after the first incident. PD's home was considered for possible placement, but it was found to be inadequate after an international home study. That, coupled with PD's serious criminal history, resulted in the court denying his request for custody. At that point, the court approved the DCPP's plan to terminate AW and PD”s parental rights.
AW voluntarily surrendered her parental rights to KA and RA, her relatives who had been taking care of SD. A trial was held for PD's parental rights, in which he participated by phone since he was still living in Cape Verde. He opposed the termination of his parental rights and requested SD to be sent to him, but the courts agreed with the DCPP's findings concerning his actions throughout the child's life. He had been voluntarily absent from her life for several years, in part because of his choices that landed him in prison. Even when he was out, his failure to attend court-ordered programs meant that he lost his visitation rights – which, once again, were his choice. As for his deportation to Cape Verde, that didn't stop him from maintaining some form of contact with the child, which he had failed to do. The Appellate Division upheld the trial court's ruling, thus permanently terminating both parties' parental rights. While cases like this are an exception to the rule, it's important to understand that parental rights can be terminated for parents who continually neglect their children.