In a child protective proceeding, the Appellate Division considered whether the mother had taken sufficient steps to be reunified with her children.
In New York , if there is evidence that a parent has abused or neglected his (or her) child, the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) has the authority to remove the child. Even though there was a finding of neglect, the ultimate goal is always to reunify the child with his or her parent or parents. Typically this does not happen quickly. Instead, there is a process that can take many months, involving a of steps.
There are instances when reunification is not possible or is not in the best interests of the child. In such cases, the parents will permanently lose their parental rights and the children will be eligible for adoption. One way for a parent to permanently lose his (or her) parental rights is abandonment. If a parent has lost communication with the child for at least six months, then the ACS can file a petition to terminate parental rights. In instances where the child has been removed due to allegations of neglect and the parent did not follow through with steps to address the issues that led to the removal for more than one year after your children entered foster care, then the ACS can file a petition to terminate parental rights. Another reason that a parent may permanently lose parental rights is due to mental illness, mental retardation, or severe and repeated abuse.
In the case of In re Lamani C.H., the children were removed from the care of their mother and the children we placed in foster care. While the specifics of the neglect were not mentioned in the decision, typically children are removed from the care of their parents and placed in foster care are receiving a report of child abuse, after the child has been arrested, after the parent has been arrested, due to a report from a school official, or due to a doctor reporting suspicious injuries.
In this case the agency created a service plan for the mother designed to address the mother’s anger management issues, to help with her parenting challenges, and to assist with domestic violence prevention. The plan included steps that the mother would have to take in order to be reunified with her children. Those steps included: 1). Visiting the children; 2). Going to counseling; and 3); Seeking assistance from appropriate programs. After a year, the agency concluded that the mother had not made sufficient progress, and filed a petition of permanent neglect, terminating her parental rights. The Family Court granted the petition. The mother appealed arguing that in its petition the agency did not specify what it did to encourage and strengthen the relationship between the mother and the children. The Appellate Division found that the petition sufficiently specified the agency’s efforts. It also found that the case notes submitted as evidence also indicated the efforts by the agency to encourage and strengthen the relationship between the mother and the children.
Despite the efforts of the agency to encourage a relationship with her children, the mother did not follow through. She did not communicate with the agency for a year and she missed all visitation set up by the agency. Though the mother did participate in some of the recommended programs, she failed to gain insight into her parenting problems and continued to exhibit problematic behaviors that the programs were designed to help.
As a result, the Appellate Division upheld the decision of the Family Court finding of permanent neglect.