In re Hicks/Brown (Opinion on Application - Partial Affirm / Reverse)Annotate this Case
Under Michigan’s Probate Code, the Department of Health and Human Services has an affirmative duty to make reasonable efforts to reunify a family before seeking termination of parental rights. The Department also has an obligation to ensure that no qualified individual with a disability is excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of the services of the Department. Efforts at reunification cannot be reasonable under the Probate Code if the Department has failed to modify its standard procedures in ways that are reasonably necessary to accommodate a disability under the ADA. The Department petitioned to terminate the parental rights of respondent, a person with an intellectual disability. The Supreme Court determined after review of this matter that the circuit court erred by concluding the Department had made reasonable efforts at reunification because the court did not conduct a complete analysis of whether reasonable efforts were made: the court did not consider the fact that the Department had failed to provide the court-ordered support services, nor did the court consider whether, despite this failing, the Department’s efforts nonetheless complied with its statutory obligations to reasonably accommodate respondent’s disability. The Court of Appeals correctly determined that termination of respondent’s parental rights was improper without a finding of reasonable efforts. Remand was necessary for an analysis of whether the Department reasonably accommodated respondent’s disability as part of its reunification efforts in light of the fact that respondent never received the court-ordered services.