On September 28, 2010, the Family Court of Monroe County, New York heard a petition to grant two small children to be declared permanently neglected by their father. The father opposed the termination of his parental rights. The court addressed the issues.
In 2008, the children were removed from the home of their mother and father following an application for temporary removal of the children based on domestic violence incidents between the mother and the father of the two boys. The children were placed in foster care.
During 2009, the children were still being fostered by the same foster mother in spite of the fact that the father of the children had threated to harm her on several occasions. During one phone conversation that was witnessed by the children’s mother, he told her that he was having her watched. During another conversation that was witnessed again by the natural mother he stated that if she was a man he would assault her. By mid-summer, the Department of Human Services caseworker had noticed a bruise under the mother’s left eye where her husband had struck her. By late summer, the children’s mother reported to the agency that her husband had threatened to sexually assault the foster mother caring for the children. By fall of 2009, the father had been served with persona non grata letter informing him that a guard would be present whenever he was at a visitation location. This action was made due to the threats that the father had made against the caseworker. The winter of 2009 was marked with the father missing appointments to meet with the children. The father conduct was marked by disappointing the children on numerous occasions by stating that he would be there for an appointment, and then not showing up.
In 2010, the father continued to disappoint the children to the point that the caseworker began setting the visitation appointments with father arriving an hour early so that they knew that he was going to be there before calling the foster mother to bring the children for the visit. The father was also failing his drug tests. While he was ordered to attend anger management, mental health treatment, parenting, and several other classes, he only managed to successfully complete one course of treatment for anger management. Less than one month after completing anger management class, he was arrested again. This time, he was charged with Assault in the Second Degree for stabbing another person three times. The father had failed to tell his anger management councilor about this issue or about his domestic violence charges. In testimony, the father stated to the court that in July of 2010, a friend of the children’s mother came to his house with a knife yelling at him. He claimed that he confronted the victim about the issue, they began to struggle with each other, and the victim dropped the knife. The father claims that he then picked the knife up and “accidently stabbed the victim in the face three times.”
There are a few priorities that Social Services look at when they are handling cases that involve the removal of children from a natural parent. The legislature “recognizes that the health and safety of children is of paramount importance.”(Social Services of the State of New York Law Section 384) In order to further that concept it is important that the following guidelines outlined by statute are relied upon:
“(i) it is desirable for children to grow up in a normal family life in a permanent home and that such circumstance offers the best opportunity for children to develop and thrive;
(ii) it is generally desirable for the child to remain with or be returned to the birth parent because the child’s need for a normal family life will best be met in the home of its birth parent, and that parents are entitled to bring up their own children unless the best interests of the child would be thereby endangered;
(iii) the state’s first obligation is to help the family with services to prevent its breakup or to reunite it if the child has already left home; and (iv) when it is clear that the birth parent cannot or will not provide a normal family home for the child and when continued foster care is not an appropriate plan for the child, then a permanent alternative home should be sought for the child.
(b) The legislature further finds that many children who have been placed in foster care experience unnecessarily protracted stays in such care without being adopted or returned to their parents…Such unnecessary stays may deprive these children of positive, nurturing family relationships and have deleterious effects on their development into responsible, productive citizens. The legislature further finds that provision of a timely procedure for the termination, in appropriate cases, of the rights of the birth parents could reduce such unnecessary stays.”(Social Services of the State of New York Law Section 384)
The court has taken into evaluation also that on the occasions that this father did show up for meetings with his children, he was anxious to terminate the visitation times well ahead of schedule. He did not seem to enjoy interacting with the children. He did not play with them. He frequently fell asleep on the sofa and slept through his visitation opportunity. During one visit, he demonstrated that he was not even aware of a serious food allergy that one of the boys suffered from, or even what his birthday was.
This father does not have a stable residence. He has lived in at least five residences and never provided confirmation that he was a legal resident at any time at any of them. When the case worker attempted to perform a home visit at one such address, she was surprised by this father attempting to escape with a new born infant that he had fathered by another woman. This child was also taken into emergency state custody and is currently in foster care. This father is now facing child neglect charges against him in reference to domestic violence between him and this new woman. He has not provided a home phone number. He has not obtained a job. He has not stopped using marijuana and cocaine. He has been arrested two times for felony offenses and is awaiting trial on one of them. Since he is currently a convicted felon, his future appears bleak.
His children on the other hand, have been with the same foster mother for nearly three years now. She provides a stable and loving environment for the children. She has taken foster parent classes and has shown a strong interest in adopting these children if she could be allowed to. She and the state realize that adoption is not an option until parental rights have been terminated. It is also important to note that even though this father contributed biological material to create these children, he has not taken any steps since that time to be a father. They have lived almost their entire lives with their foster mother who has cared for their medical issues: asthma and acid reflux. She is patient and loving in dealing with the issues that are residual from their time when they lived with their father such as speech delays and anger management. Because we can see that this father’s behavior has already affected the behavior of the children; it is even more important that we take the steps now to ensure that their life situation is stable and loving.
The court has confirmed that pursuant to statute, Social Services have done everything in their power to foster a loving and stable relationship between these boys and their father. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, this man has continued to reject his children even when he is in the same room with them. The case workers documented twelve letters that were sent to this father from July 31, 2008 to October 30,2009 requesting meetings and visitation for the children with the father and other issues relating to treatment programs. He has been well informed of what is expected of him as far as compliance if he wants to ever get his children back into his care. He has ignored them all.
The court in this case could come to no other conclusion but to award the guardianship and custody of the children to the Monroe County Department of Human Services.
The caseworker who was working with him informed the court that as far as income, this father had been receiving state assistance in an attempt to get him back on his feet for the children, however, he was dropped from the program for non-compliance.
In many cases, it is difficult for a person to understand that incidents that occur within the realm of domestic violence constitute highly volatile circumstances. A parent who threatens to kill the other parent is in effect neglecting the mental wellbeing of the child. Any act of outright domestic violence, hitting, slapping, pinching, verbal abuse, all constitute a criminal act. If they are done in front of a child then it constitutes neglect. It was not determined in this case, where the children were except that they were clearly somewhere in the residence when the police arrived to work the crime scene in that the investigator had to find suitable placement for the children before taking the wife to the police station. This leaves open the question of neglect as it relates to the wife and husband and the children. Except that in 1981 the laws of child neglect did not include any mention of domestic violence.
If you find yourself in a position that may be considered domestic violence or child neglect based on an incident of domestic violence, contact Steven Bilkis and Associates. At Steven Bilkis and Associates there are attorneys who are available to assist you, no matter what your case. Steven Bilkis and associates are qualified to handle any domestic violence needs.
Issues of law are constantly changing. A person who is not specifically trained in the law cannot begin to know what all of their rights are without the assistance of a professional. Here at Steven Bilkis and Associates, we provide New York Order of Protection Attorneys, New York Domestic Violence Lawyers, New York Assault Attorneys, and New York Criminal lawyers. New York Family Lawyers will stand by you and ensure that your rights are protected. New York Personal Injury Attorneys can argue your side and make sure that you and your loved ones are considered. We make sure that you are rightfully awarded compensation for your suffering.
Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its Domestic Violence Lawyers has convenient offices throughout the New York Metropolitan area including Corona, New York. Our Personal Injury Attorneys can provide you with advice to guide you through difficult situations. Without a Domestic Violence Lawyer you could lose precious compensation to help with your medical bills and the trauma to you and your loved ones following such a frightening experience. This is true even if the Attorney for the assailant has not adequately made their case. In addition to Personal Injury Law, Stephen Bilkis and Associates can recommend Criminal Lawyers who will protect your rights if you are ever arrested.