On July 1, 2010, a petition was made to the Court of Appeals to review the decision of the Family Court in Otsego, regarding a child, in a case involving domestic violence. The Family Court had ordered that the boy be treated as a permanently neglected child. Also, the rights that a mother has toward her child were taken away from the mother. On May 5, 2011, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Family Court’s decision. Let us examine why.
According to reports, Tyler was taken away from his mother in 2007. He was only a year old then. During the hearing, it was determined that the child had been neglected at home because of the many alcohol-related domestic violence incidents that had happened between his mother and father. The petitioner wanted it established that the child was a permanently neglected child and that he be removed from the care of his mother.
On what basis? In Social Services Law, in order to prove that a child has been permanently neglected, there must be evidence that the petitioner used “diligent efforts” to try to build and strengthen the relationship between the mother or father and the child. Also, that even with all that effort, the mother or father did not maintain contact with their child or try to plan and prepare for his future. By diligent efforts, the Law means that the petitioner or the child care agency should have offered services to the parent that will help him/her overcome his/her problem and help the child to return. The agency should make the arrangements needed so that the parent can visit the child. Also, the agency should advise the parent on things that can be done to help the child grow and develop better.
During the hearing, the child’s mother complained that the agency did not provide her with services to address the issue of domestic violence and to help her cope. However, it was proven that the agency did its part. According to records, the mother had already been referred to mental health counseling and had already been offered sessions of couples counseling. Aside from this, she was also offered parent education classes, given advice on her problem areas, and many other services.
Also, the agency had also offered to arrange visits with Tyler and even helped the mother arrange for transportation. However, the mother never made much effort to see her child, contact him or visit him. She also did not make concrete plans for his future. She explained that she was busy with the birth of another child, with her heart surgery, and visiting her other children. Although this explains some of her absences to the visits, there were also other times when she could have gone but did not show up. There were also times when she would not answer the phone and when she wouldn’t tell the agency where she was. She never called him or wrote him letters.
Because the mother did not make an effort to maintain contact with the child, and because she did not avail of the services that would have helped her keep him, the Court determined that Tyler was a permanently neglected child and that it is in his best interests to be removed from the care of his mother. He was then placed in the care of his aunt where the environment is more stable.
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