In November 1973, based on evidence of neglect, Kramer, the Commissioner of the Ulster County Department of Social Services (Social Services) (plaintiff), removed Tina Santosky from the home of her parents, John Santosky II and Annie Santosky (defendants). Ten months later, the Santoskys’ son John was also removed from their home, again on the basis of neglect. The Santoskys’ third child, Jed, was removed from their home three days after his birth, on the ground of imminent danger to his health. Over the next several years, Social Services procured training for the Santosky parents, relating to child welfare, psychiatric health, and vocational issues. The couple’s participation was minimal, but they maintained some contact with their children. In October 1978, Social Services petitioned to terminate the Santoskys’ parental rights. Against the objection of the Santoskys, the court reviewed the evidence under the statutory standard of “fair preponderance of the evidence.” The trial court ultimately decided that the Santoskys’ parental rights should be permanently terminated. The couple appealed unsuccessfully. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.