Reinstating Parental Rights

Not all children whose parents’ parental rights have been terminated by a court end up with a new family. In fact, many youth never achieve permanency, but instead remain in some kind of out-of-home care until they age out of the foster care system.

In a new journal article, "Reinstating Parental Rights: Another Path to Permanency?", authors Susan Getman and Steve Christian explore the option of reuniting these youth with their birth parents. In a handful of States, State law permits the parents’ parental rights to be restored; in other States, the path to legal reunification is less well defined. In most cases, the courts will approve reinstatement of parental rights only when the child wishes to be reunited, the circumstances of the parents have improved to the point that they are able to safely parent the child, and the reunification is in the child’s best interests.

The article also discusses the policy implications of this permanency option, such as a need to make youth aware of their right to seek connections with their birth families. Other considerations include whether reinstatement affects the youth’s eligibility for Independent Living services, education and training vouchers, tuition waivers, and Medicaid. The authors note that the potential for loss of these benefits may act as a disincentive to taking advantage of the reinstatement option, and they suggest that State policymakers review and perhaps amend the relevant State eligibility criteria, to the extent that is consistent with Federal law.

"Reinstating Parental Rights: Another Path to Permanency?" was published in the November 2011 issue of American Humane Association’s Protecting Children 26(1). The issue is available on American Humane’s website: (1 MB)

Related item

The National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections has developed a webpage on Reinstatement of Parental Rights.

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