Bristol County Mom Loses Rights to Child in Court Decision
The state's Supreme Judicial Court has upheld a Bristol County Juvenile Court decision removing the parental rights of a county mother whose son was born addicted to opioids.
Massachusetts' highest court published a decision on Tuesday affirming the termination of the mother's parental rights and granting permanent guardianship to the child's paternal grandmother.
According to the court's written decision, the child — known only by the pseudonym "Zeb" to protect his identity — was born in July 2019 with fentanyl in his blood and showed signs of opiate withdrawal as a newborn.
The document notes that "During the majority of her pregnancy with Zeb, the mother used from three to four bags of heroin daily."
On the day he was born, the written decision continues, his mother tested positive for cocaine, opiates, Suboxone, fentanyl, and marijuana.
A nurse was also present in the delivery room at all times during his birth, due to concerns that both parents were under the influence.
Zeb's mother had agreed that transferring permanent guardianship to his paternal grandmother was in the child's best interests, but disagreed that the juvenile court judge had the authority to remove her parental rights entirely.
Her lawyers had argued that the court did not have that authority because Zeb was not in state custody at the time, but the SJC said that the argument failed.
The mother also argued that the decision to sever her legal ties to the child was "hasty" and the judge did not "properly asses her future potential to care for Zeb."
"We disagree," the court wrote in its decision. "A judge considering termination also must consider the child's unqualified right to permanency and stability and cannot hinge predicitons of future fitness determinations on a 'faint hope' that the parent will become fit at some indeterminate time."
Terminating parental rights essentially dissolves the legal relationship between parent and child, including all legal responsibilities and the right to make decisions regarding the child.
It is unclear exactly where in Bristol County Zeb or his mother reside.