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Copyright (c) 2004 Journal of Law & Family Studies  
Journal of Law & Family Studies

Case Note: In Re T.M.: Who Protects the Indigent Parents?


6 J. L. Fam. Stud. 161


Diana Telfer*


Almost four-and-a-half years after their first involvement with the Division of Family Services ("DCFS"), the parental rights of T.M. and S.M. were terminated without the court; (1) investigating allegations of inadequate representation by their court-appointed counsel; or, (2) finding that reasonable efforts were made by DCFS to provide court ordered reunification services. 1 If the State fails in preserving and protecting the family unit either by its executive branch (i.e. DCFS, the agency responsible for providing family preservation services to parents), or by its judicial branch in appropriately interpreting and enforcing the law and protecting the parties' interests, what level of comfort can indigent parents have that their fundamental right to care and provide for their children is protected? This paper examines the limitations of Utah's Child Welfare Act to meet its objectives to protect abused, neglected and dependent children, the difficulty the courts face in determining what is in the best interests of a child, especially in the case of impoverished families, and the growing trend of therapeutic justice to overcome some of these limitations.

I. Background
T.M. and S.M.'s saga began after voluntarily submitting to protective supervision services after DCFS found unsanitary conditions in their home in October 1997. 2 After failing to comply with the terms of the voluntary service plan, DCFS filed a petition of neglect against the parents on February 26, 1998, followed by a finding by the juvenile court of neglect and abuse on June 4, 1998. 3 Being indigent, T.M. and ...
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