The Umbilical Cord that Binds: Cross-Cultural Examination of the Politics of Achieving Effective Permanency and Adoption Policies in the United States and Brazil

AuthorCrystal L. Welch
PositionSupervising Attorney and Law Instructor with Mississippi College School of Law's Family and Children's Law Center. I would like to express sincere gratitude to my late father, Ivory J. Welch, and my mother, Ida Welch, for my writing inspiration and their contribution to my passion for child advocacy. I would also like to thank my former law...
This Article explores the idea that in child welfare cases where it is
unsafe to return the minor child to their parents, the termination of that
parents’ parental rights can serve as the catalyst for change needed to
achieve permanency for children, youth, and families. The legal process of
termination of parental rights permanently severs the parent-child
relationship. Upon first impression, the abrogation may appear to be anti-
family and against the child’s best interest. However, this severance can
function as the umbilical cord that binds the child with permanent family if
the effective policies and tools necessary to achieve permanency are in
Let me explain: the umbilical cord connects a fetus to the biological
mother’s placenta, and it transports oxygen, blood, and nutrients essential
for healthy development of the fetus.1 The umbilical cord also helps the
fetus expel toxins or waste products.2 In like manner, a termination of
Copyright © 2017, Crystal Welch.
* Supervising Attorney and Law Instructor with Mississippi College School of Law’s
Family and Children’s Law Center. I would like to express sincere gratitude to my late
father, Ivory J. Welch, and my mother, Ida Welch, for my writing inspiration and their
contribution to my passion for child advocacy. I would also like to thank my former law
school professor and mentor, Professor Angela Mae Kupenda, for her mentorship. My
writing is a product of the love and support you have shown me throughout my legal
education and career. I extend a special thank you to Professor Shirley Kennedy, Director
of Family and Children’s Law Center at Mississippi College School of Law. Your
expertise and wisdom is much appreciated. I would like to thank the faculty and staff of
Mississippi College School of Law for your support. Finally, I wish to thank Capital
University Law School and its Law Review. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to
explore solutions for permanency for children, youth, and families.
1 See, e.g., Umbilical Cord Appearance and Care, CLEVELAND CLINIC (Mar. 10, 2016),
[] (“The umbilical cord is the baby’s lifeline to the mother
during pregnancy. The cord transports nutrients to the baby . . . [and] is made up of two
arteries and one vein.”).
2 Id. (“The cord . . . also carries away the baby’s waste products.”).
parental rights (TPR) proceeding can function as the umbilical cord in two
very distinct ways: (1) it severs the relationship between the child and the
unfit parents andlike the umbilical cordexpels toxins and frees the
child from abuse, neglect, abandonment, and any other toxic rights
violations; and (2) it helps connect the child to an essential biological
family network that may result in kinship care or foster placement with a
relative caregiver. To this end, a child who is matched with relatives for
successful permanency can maintain the essential family connections
assigned at birth, which are vital to healthy growth and development.3
Generally, youth in foster care who have not found a permanent home
by age eighteen age outof foster care and are forced to transition from
the child welfare system to adulthood without a permanent family.4 Some
states have increased the age from eighteen to either twenty or twenty-
one.5 The older a child is, however, the more difficult it may be to find
adequate placement for that child, making adoption more difficult for
youth in foster care.6 Permanency planning and adoption of youth
constitute more than an application of legal procedures and rigid laws; they
compose a delicate process that requires invariable investigation,
audacious advocacy, and an unwavering commitment to the best interests
of a minor child if we are to achieve effective permanency goals and
prevent the abusive conditions that necessitate them. Because various
policies may frustrate the permanency vision, this Article will investigate
and explain the policies and procedures that either aid or aggravate the
journey to permanency and adoption for youth in the U.S. child welfare
Furthermore, this Article will conduct an international comparative
analysis of permanency and child welfare policies in the United States and
Brazil.8 Brazil was chosen for this analytical comparison because this
particular country employs a community outreach model that emphasizes
3 Joan Pennell et al., Expedited Family Group Engagement and Child Permanency, 32
CHILD. & YOUTH SERVICES REV. 1012, 1012 (2010).
4 See Aging Out, CHILD. RTS.,
sheets/aging-out [].
5 Extending Foster Care Beyond 18, NATL CONF. ST. LEGISLATURES (Mar. 11, 2016),
6 Id.
7 See infra Part III.
8 See infra Part IV.

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