Ruling: Prisoners must be offered services to remain parents

PHOENIX -- Arizona child welfare officials are considering whether to end parental rights for inmates serving long sentences.

Ruling: Prisoners must be offered services to remain parents

PHOENIX -- Arizona child welfare officials are considering whether to end parental rights for inmates serving long sentences. They have a constitutional obligation to provide reunification services to prisoners who wish to keep their children. The state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

Although Arizona law does not require that the state offer reunification services in order to maintain bonds between prisoners-parents, this is necessary because, according to the Arizona justices, a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision, parents have a "fundamental liberty right" to manage their children's care, custody, and management.

Arizona's justices recognized that the 2005 ruling by the state Court of Appeals required them to offer reunification services for long-term prisoners.

It would be difficult to maintain parental relationships when separated. However, a parent who is incarcerated can still maintain a connection with their child through visits, phone calls and letters.

In a father's appeal against a juvenile court's termination his parental rights to his two young children, the justices considered the issue of reunification. The ruling stated that even though the court applied two wrong legal standards, other circumstances and childens best interests still justified termination to allow them to be adopted by a family.

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