Oklahoma Supreme Court Affirms the Termination of Mother’s Parental Rights; Drug Use Cited as a Reason
Earlier this year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s decision to terminate the parental rights of a Tulsa County mother. An infant girl was removed from the care of her parents a few weeks after she was born. In June of 2016, a Tulsa Police Department officer pulled over the mother in this case after he observed that her vehicle had expired tags. While impounding the car, officers conducted a field test that indicated the presence of heroin residue in the vehicle. Upon questioning, the mother admitted to the officers that she had previously used heroin. She went on to argue she quit, after learning of her pregnancy.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) eventually ordered an assessment of the health of the infant.
During this assessment, the agency noted that the mother exhibited symptoms of continued heroin use — including falling asleep at strange times. DHS also observed that the infant was significantly underweight. Based on these conclusions, DHS moved to terminate her parental rights. They cited the mother’s alleged inability to provide adequate child care or a safe, stable home, and scheduled a hearing. However, the mother failed to attend the hearing. The Court terminated parental rights. The mother raised several issues on appeal.
Most notably, she argued that the court improperly denied her a continuance in its initial proceedings.
Ultimately, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that the lower court made no irreversible errors. In parental termination proceedings, due process is clear about the mandates. A parent always has the right to defend themselves . The court ruled the mother’s right to raise a defense was not unlawfully impaired in this case. Her appeal was denied, and parental rights permanently revoked.