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Master's Professional Reports Abstract



Challenging Texas Statute Terminating Parental Rights of Mentally Ill or Deficient Parents : Legislative Intent, Due Process, and the Americans with Disabilities Act
Keshavarz, Ahmad.
REPORT 1999 K481 Public Affairs Library

Texas Family Code 161.003 is a termination of parental rights statute that singles out mentally ill and deficient parents for termination under a different and substantially lower standard than used for other parents. All other parents can have their parental rights terminated only by the state proving that the parent committed a wrongful act or omission. However, mentally ill and mentally deficient parents alone are targeted for termination under 161.003 for inability to care, a status which requires no showing of wrongful conduct by the parent. This statute raises three issues. The first issue is legislative intent: to what class of persons did the Texas legislature intend this statute apply? The legislative proceedings suggest the legislature intended the act to apply to a much narrower sub-group of mentally ill or deficient parents than the group against whom the statute is now being applied. The second issue is constitutional: the statute lowers the standard of proof below that required by the constitution for an element that the state must prove in terminating parental rights of mentally ill or deficient parents for inability to care. Finally, this paper addresses the effect on state termination of parental rights statutes of the Americans With Disabilities Act, a federal civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against the disabled.