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Court Rules on Child Neglect Case


This is an application for guardianship of a child pursuant to the provisions that are set up under the Social Services Law. The petitioner and appellant of the case is Graham Windham. The respondent of the case is Deborah K. This case is being heard in the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department.

Case Background

A New York Family Lawyer said the child in this case is Shantal who was born on the 26th of November, 1970. In December of 1970 Shantal was placed with the Agency voluntarily as the mother had no home for the child to live in. Shantal was placed with a foster family until April of 1971. Shantal was returned to her mother at this time.

The foster mother came to visit Shantal and noticed that the child had burns on her body. On the 14th of October, 1971 Shantal was found to be an abused child when the mother failed to explain the origin of the burns. Shantal has remained in the care of the Agency under subsequent extension orders.

Shantal’s biological father has been incarcerated almost continuously since she was born. Her mother has been on public assistance and has given birth to three other children since 1972. A New York Custody Lawyer said the second oldest child, Jemal has a different father than Shantal. Jemal’s father is also in prison. The father of the other two children is unknown.

From January of 1972 through December of 1973, the mother’s contact with Shantal was barely minimal. The first permanent neglect proceeding was commenced by the agency in the fall of 1973. A Queens Family Lawyer said the first application was denied on the third of January 1974. The judge that made the ruling stated that the criteria for permanent neglect had not been met as the mother had been maintaining a regular course of visitation.

Court Discussion

From 1970 through 1975 the Agency had diligently sought to encourage and to foster the relationship between the mother and Shantal. There were numerous visits made to the mother by the agency to counsel and help the mother. The mother was referred for psychiatric testing, but no mental illnesses were noted.

In February of 1975 the Agency discouraged further visitation from the mother to Shantal. This decision was based only after a significant effort had been made to try and foster the relationship between mother and child. Another reason that this decision was made was because the homemaker that had been assigned to help the mother reported that one of the other children, Hassan, had bruises, burns, and black eyes. While there was no formal proceeding brought forth from this report it further confirmed the suspicions of the agency that the mother was abusive towards her children.

When reviewing the case the court finds that the Agency was correct in discouraging further visitation with the mother. Furthermore, in 1975, the mother left and went to North Carolina with three of her other children. She did not return until February of 1976. A Queens Abuse & Neglect Lawyer said the Agency was not informed that she was going to be leaving.

For these reasons, the court finds that the mother has basically neglected and abused Shantal. The previous ruling that denied the petition for permanent neglect is overturned. The petition is granted and the matter is remanded for further proceedings in front of a new judge.

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