- - - - - - - - - - - - -
July 15, 1970
Honorable Anton J. Miller
P.O. Box 563
Raymond, Washington 98577
Cite as: AGLO 1970 No. 100
This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our advice on the authority for, and procedures to be followed with respect to, depriving an unfit parent or parents of a child for whom they are unwilling or unable to care ‑ followed, ultimately, by the placement of the child for adoption without a necessity for obtaining parental consent thereto.
A logical starting point for consideration of this question is RCW 13.04.010 (2), which defines the term "dependent child" to mean, inter alia, any child under the age of eighteen years:
". . . (2) Who has no parent, guardian or other responsible person; or who has no parent or guardian willing to exercise, or capable of exercising, proper parental control; . . ."
The procedures to be followed in taking a dependent child from the custody of his parents who are unable or unwilling to exercise proper parental control are set forth in detail in RCW 13.04.060 ‑ 13.04.110, under which the jurisdiction of the superior court to deal with the child in the manner provided for in these statutes may be invoked by the filing of a petition by
"Any person . . . showing that there is within the county, or residing within the county, a dependent or delinquent child and praying that the superior court deal with such child as provided in this chapter: . . ." (RCW 13.04.060.)
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]] In terms of the subject matter of your question, the most important remedial provision of these statutes is contained in RCW 13.04.110, which provides that:
"In any case where the court shall award a child to the care of any association or individual, the child shall, unless otherwise ordered, become a ward and be subject to the guardianship of the association or individual to whose care it is committed; such association shall have authority, with the assent of the court, to place such child in a family home, either temporarily or for adoption. . . ."
The statutes governing the adoption of children are to be found in chapter 26.32 RCW. The subject of "consent to adoption ‑ when required" is covered by RCW 26.32.030 ‑ subsection 5 of which is to be particularly noted. This subsection was added to the statute by the 1947 legislature through its enactment of § 1, chapter 251, Laws of 1947, and was carried forward when the statute was reenacted as § 3, chapter 291, Laws of 1955. This provision reads, in material part, as follows:
"Written consent to such adoption must be filed prior to a hearing on the petition, as follows:
". . .
"(5) If the person to be adopted is a minor and has been permanently committed upon due notice to his parents by any court of general jurisdiction to an approved agency, then by such approved agency, in which event neither notice to nor consent by its parents in the adoption proceeding shall be necessary: . . ."
Manifestly, this subsection was intended by the legislature to dovetail with RCW 13.04.110, supra, ‑ in terms of the procedures to be followed in placing out for adoption a dependent child who has previously been taken from his parents and placed in the custody of "an approved agency" with authority to assume guardianship [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] over the child and consent to his adoption. See, In re Reinius, 55 Wn.2d 117, 346 P.2d 672 (1959).1/
It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Assistant Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/In addition, there are several other Washington State Supreme Court decisions which you might note involving the deprivation of parental rights in juvenile court. In the case of In re Three Minors, 50 Wn.2d 653, 658, 314 P.2d 423 (1957), the court said:
"Once having determined by contemporaneous findings of fact that the children are dependent children within the scope of RCW 13.04.010, and that the natural parent or guardian is an unfit person to be entrusted with their continued custody, it becomes incumbent upon the juvenile court to enter such order, or orders, either permanent or temporary, as in the exercise of its sound discretion it deems appropriate to the situation presented. RCW 13.04.100, Rem. Rev. Stat., § 1897-8."
Other cases in which there had been a deprivation of parental rights are In re Russell, 70 Wn.2d 451, 423 P.2d 640 (1967), and In re Boatman, 73 Wn.2d 364, 438 P.2d 600 (1968).