Mother Tries to Regain Custody of Children in Foster Care
A permanent neglect petition was filed by the petitioner adoption service. At that time the child was four years old; for the preceding two and a half years she had been in the custody first of the Bureau of Child Welfare, and thereafter, with the adoption. The child, who is now seven years old, has, since the latter date, been in the care of the same foster parents.
A New York Family Lawyer said that the voluminous record which covers 19 hearings, beginning on June 1969, portrays a picture of an aggressive, paranoid and immature mother who interspersed long periods of neglect by failure to maintain contact with the supervising agency for visitation with sudden, hysterical demands that the child be returned to her. Attempts by caseworkers to contact the respondent were frustrated by her constant changes of address, most of which were not communicated to the agency.
On one occasion, when the Bureau of Child Welfare permitted the child to be taken to the respondent's home, the infant was admitted to a hospital as a battered child four days later. Thereafter, or in August 1971, the Family Court judge, in response to the respondent's application for the immediate return of the child, ordered the adoption service to permit 15 visits by the respondent up to October 1971; on that latter date she was to be permitted to take the child home for the weekend. Nevertheless, the respondent made only two regular visits prior to October 1; on that date she insisted on taking the child home a week earlier than scheduled. She was permitted to do so, but refused to return the child on the following Monday. This resulted in the issuance of a warrant and the arrest of the respondent.
At that point petitioner adoption service concluded that the child’s best interest would be furthered by her remaining with her foster parents, and concomitant therewith discontinued efforts to encourage and strengthen the parental relation. A New York Custody Lawyer said this was followed by the permanent neglect petition herein.
After the respondent's arrest in October, 1971, she had been required to appear at a hearing in the Family Court on October 15, 1971 on petitioner’s application for an extension of placement. That hearing, which was later consolidated with hearings on the permanent neglect petition was continually adjourned because of the respondent's non-appearances. She did not appear until September 1972; hearings in the consolidated proceedings were held, beginning November of the same year.
The record impels the conclusion that the respondent has failed, for the entire time since May 29 1969, 'substantially and continuously or repeatedly to maintain contact with or plan for the future of the child' (Family Ct. Act, § 611). The respondent's behavior during her sporadic contacts with the agency and the child did not serve the purpose of easing and adjusting the child to return to her; they constituted a disruptive and harmful factor to the child's well-being, far beyond that normally to be expected in such a delicate situation.
Section 611 of the Family Court Act requires the agency to exert diligent efforts to encourage and strengthen the parental relationship. This section was amended, effective June 25, 1971 to add the phrase 'when such efforts will not be detrimental to the moral and temporal welfare of the child.' A Queens Family Lawyer said the record establishes that adoption service, and its predecessor in the care of the child, the Bureau of Child Welfare, had in fact initially, and for a long period of time, exerted diligent efforts to foster and strengthen the parental relationship. Such efforts, however, were not met with the cooperation of the respondent. The respondent's behavior on those occasions in 1970 and 1971 when she visited the child and when she took her home was such as to clearly demonstrate the correctness of the adoption service’s conclusion, in late 1971, that further efforts to encourage the parental relationship would be detrimental to the welfare of the child.
The testimony of the psychologist who examined the respondent at the direction of the court, that of the psychiatrist who examined both the respondent and the child at the direction of the court, as well as that of the two psychiatric consultants retained by the petitioner, show that there has been no change in the psychological and behavioral pathology which is the basis of her failure to fulfill her parental obligations towards the child. Such testimony further supports petitioner's decision not to continue fostering the parental relationship.
A Queens Child Custody Lawyer said this little girl is now seven years of age. She is still living in a condition of uncertainty about her life. This uncertainty has been caused by, and continues entirely because of, the emotional instability, life-style and neglect of her natural mother; it is in no way the fault of the adoption agency or the foster-care family. The child is entitled to know where her future lies and not to have the uncertainty continued by postponement of the decision for another year.
The foster home is stable and there is a desire to adopt. The child, if returned, would go to an unstable mother who has no husband and who has had three illegitimate children by different men. She would go to a home with no father figure and a life ahead which is likely to be supported, as the mother now is, on the welfare rolls. This is not simply a case where the neglect by the parent may have been matched by the neglect of the agency to attempt the strengthening of the parental relationship. It may be that the adoption agency could have tried harder to encourage the natural mother-child relationship in order to satisfy the most searching mind that no more could reasonably be done. However, we must not get lost in an analysis of the niceties of the precise degree of required diligence of effort where the life-style and apparent sociopathology of the mother indicate a bleak future indeed for the child. As stated in a case, 'the welfare of the child is not served if permanent termination is delayed in order to penalize the agency for its failure to make diligent efforts or in order to give the natural parent recompense against the agency in the form of a second chance.'
Not to settle this child’s future now, after hearings held over a span of many years, would be an abdication of our primary duty of concern for the welfare of the child.
The Court concludes that the orders of the Family Court which deny termination of the respondent's parental rights pursuant to section 611 of the Family Court Act should be reversed, on the law and the facts, and the petition granted. The decision that the infant is a 'permanently neglected child' renders moot the application for an extension of placement.
Thus, the court orders of the Family Court, Kings County reversed, on the law and the facts, without costs, and petition to terminate custody on the ground of permanent neglect granted. The proceeding is remanded to the Family Court for the making of an award of custody pursuant to the provisions of section 634 of the Family Court Act.
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