MISSISSIPPI (WDAM) - A bill passed by the Mississippi House of Legislature could redefine terms to terminate parental rights in cases of child abuse.
House Bill 1240 would broaden what is defined as child abuse, thus giving more instances for the Department of Human Services to take custody of a child away from his or her natural parents.
According to the Mississippi Bar Association, under the current law, some instances that would require the termination of parental rights are a "series of abusive instances," which could be physical, mental or emotional, or a parent having a severe mental illness that interferes with the care of the child.
Under the new changes, just one instance of abuse could warrant termination of parental rights, and a parent's mental illness need only be moderate. The bill would also require the state to comply with the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.
Sen. Chris McDaniel said the bill could endanger parental protections.
"The bill would expand the definition of 'unfit' parent to be usable in any case in which social workers and/or an expert witness forecast that leaving a child with his or her parent poses a 'substantial risk of compromising' a 'child's ... welfare' based on misinterpreting or assuming the worst about the parent's 'past or present conduct,'" McDaniel said.
"If this bill passes, though, it will enable DHS/child protective services to pull more decent parents into the court system," he added.
The bill must now make it's way to the Senate for a vote.