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Court considered whether to change the goal for placement of the child from adoption to guardianship. Rebecca B. v. Michael B. 152 A.D.3d 675 (N.Y. App. Div. 2017)


In New York Family Court, a permanency hearing is a legal proceeding designed to determine the long-term plan for children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, or other circumstances endangering their well-being. These hearings aim to establish a stable and secure environment for the children involved.

During a permanency hearing, the court reviews the progress and circumstances of the child, the child’s family, and any involved agencies since the child’s placement into foster care. It evaluates various factors, including the child’s safety, well-being, and the efforts made towards family reunification or alternative permanency goals, such as adoption or guardianship.

The hearing allows all parties, including the child’s biological parents, foster parents, legal guardians, and representatives from child welfare agencies, to present evidence, testimony, and recommendations regarding the child’s future placement and care. The court considers the child’s best interests as paramount in making its decision.

If the court determines that it is not safe or feasible for the child to return home, it may explore other permanency options, such as adoption by foster parents or placement with relatives. The court may also extend the child’s stay in foster care while efforts continue towards reunification or alternative permanency goals.

Background Facts
Following the termination of the children’s mother’s parental rights, the Family Court transferred guardianship and custody of the children to DSS for adoption. Subsequently, the maternal grandparents and aunt filed petitions seeking appointment as permanent guardians. The Family Court, after a consolidated hearing, granted these petitions and changed the permanency goal to placement with a relative.

DSS challenges the Family Court’s decision to grant the guardianship petitions and change the permanency goal from adoption to placement with relatives.

The appellate court reverses the Family Court’s orders, denying the petitions for permanent guardianship by the maternal relatives. The matter is remitted to the Family Court for further proceedings consistent with the appellate court’s decision.

Despite the maternal relatives’ desire to assume permanent guardianship, the court ultimately determined that maintaining the children in their current foster care placement was in their best interest.

Key factors influencing the court’s decision included the children’s established bond with their foster parents, their emotional and physical well-being in the foster care setting, and the stability provided by their current living arrangement. The court recognized the significant period of time the children had spent in foster care, during which they had developed positive relationships with their foster parents and thrived in their care.

Additionally, the court considered the absence of compelling reasons to disrupt the children’s stable and nurturing environment in favor of placement with the maternal relatives. While the maternal relatives may have had a familial connection to the children, the court found that the children’s ongoing attachment to their foster parents and the continuity of care they received outweighed the biological relationship.

The appellate court overturns the Family Court’s decision, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing the children’s well-being. The matter is remanded to the Family Court to establish the appropriate permanency goal of adoption, ensuring the children’s continued welfare and stability.

In New York, the court may grant grandparents guardianship under specific circumstances that prioritize the best interests of the child. Typically, grandparents may be awarded guardianship when it is deemed to be in the child’s best interest and when certain conditions are met. These conditions often include situations where the child’s parents are unable to care for them due to factors such as death, incapacity, or being deemed unfit by the court. However, the court will also considered if placement with another relative of even a non-relative would be in the best interests of the child. That is what happened in the case of Rebecca B. v. Michael B. Despite the availability of the grandparents and no indication that the grandparents were unfit, the fact that the children had an stronger relationship with their foster parents was taken into consideration.

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