State proceedings that initiate and effect involuntary termination of parental rights occur only in egregious circumstances. In New Mexico, before an abusive or neglectful parent’s rights may be terminated, the state must prove, among other requirements, that it made “reasonable efforts” to provide assistance to the involved parent to remedy the causes and conditions that led to the subject abuse. Courts continue to grapple with precisely what constitutes reasonable efforts to this day because it is not concretely defined. Special cases, such as when parents have become incarcerated after an adjudication of abuse or neglect, are particularly vexing because parents behind bars are limited in their ability to communicate with their case workers and may have fewer options to comply with any treatment plan.

The New Mexico Supreme Court decided one such case, State ex rel. Children, Youth & Families Dep’t v. Keon H. (In re Anhayla H.), in June 2018. This Note compares this case to others with similar fact patterns and argues this decision may set a precedent that reduces what quantum of work is considered reasonable when CYFD assists an incarcerated parent. This Note then proposes a legislative solution to the difficulties inherent in assisting incarcerated individuals who are involved in termination of parental rights proceedings.

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