Supreme Court of Alaska (2022)
In Ariel P. v. State, Department of Health & Social Services, 2022 WL 2093357 (Alaska 2022) (unpublished), the supreme court held that a court may consider the potential permanency of a child’s foster placement when conducting a best interests assessment. (Id. at *1). The Office of Children’s Services (OCS) took emergency custody of a mother’s newborn child when the child tested positive for amphetamine and opiates. (Id.). OCS referred the mother to a variety of services for substance abuse, addiction treatment, and parenting support, which she attended inconsistently. (Id.). The child was placed with her paternal aunt and uncle from birth, and they expressed an interest in adopting her. (Id.). A little over a year after the child’s birth, OCS filed a petition to terminate the mother’s parental rights and the court found that termination was in the child’s best interests. (Id. at *2–3). The mother appealed and argued that the court should not have considered the potential permanency of the child’s placement with her aunt and uncle in its analysis. (Id. at *3). The supreme court affirmed the lower court’s decision, reasoning that the decision to terminate parental rights must be based on a case’s specific facts. (Id.). While the existence of a pre-adoptive placement is not determinative, it can be considered as part of a holistic evaluation of a child’s best interests. (Id.). Affirming the lower court’s decision, the supreme court held that a court may consider the potential permanency of a child’s foster placement when conducting a best interests assessment. (Id.).