Daniel Pollack

Prof. Daniel Pollack

Prof. Daniel Pollack is a professor at Wurzweiler School of Social Work. Julia Sands is a New York attorney. Together, they have written an article for the August 3, 2020, issue of New York Law Journal titled “Defining Chronic Substance Abuse in the Context of Terminating Parental Rights.”

As they point out, “The persistent use of drugs and alcohol can lead to many health and mental health impairments. In particular, the incidence of co-occurring chronic substance abuse and child abuse/neglect and its effects on the ability to parent have been well documented. Consequently, among many other grounds for terminating parental rights, chronic substance abuse is one. What then is the legal definition of chronic substance abuse such that it can result in the termination of parental rights?”

Julia Sands

Although there is no one clear, uniform definition for chronic substance abuse,  they present the factors that can provide some limited insight into how the courts view this very significant and complicated issue.

They conclude that “parents have a fundamental right to make decisions regarding the care, custody, and control of their children and the government’s interference with fundamental constitutional rights is subject to strict scrutiny. Infringement is permissible only by showing that the restriction is necessary to promote a compelling state interest, and this interest must be served in the least restrictive manner possible.” With that being the case, “states should make greater efforts to identify specific elements and criteria for terminating parental rights based upon a parent having chronic substance abuse issues.”

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