Supreme Court of Alaska (2022)
In Tiffany B. v. State, Department of Health & Social Services, No. S-18111, 2022 WL 2066045 (Alaska June 8, 2022) (unpublished), the supreme court reversed the lower court’s order to terminate a mother’s parental rights, holding that the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) had not made sufficiently active efforts in providing services to prevent the breakup of the children’s family, as required by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). (Id. at *1). OCS petitioned to terminate a mother’s parental rights because of her domestic violence and aggressive behavior, among other reasons. (Id. at *4). The lower court terminated her rights, and the mother appealed, arguing that the lower court incorrectly found that OCS had met its “active efforts” burden. (Id.). The supreme court defined “active efforts” as a state caseworker taking the parent through the steps of the case plan, rather than requiring that the parent perform the plan’s requirements on their own. (Id. at *5). The supreme court noted that while a parent’s unwillingness to participate in their case plan may influence the rehabilitative efforts OCS pursues, a parent’s lack of effort does not excuse OCS’s failure to make and demonstrate its efforts. (Id. at *8). The supreme court found that OCS did not make active efforts to help the mother access mental health counseling or parenting classes, even though the mother was unwilling or expressed disinterest in undertaking the tasks in the plan. (Id. at *7–8). Because OCS did not meet its active efforts burden as required by the ICWA, the supreme court reversed the lower court’s order to terminate the mother’s parental rights. (Id. at *1).