On June 3, 2010, the New York City Children’s Services (NYCCS) filed a case against a mother and father for not providing the minimum degree of care to their children as required by law. This was because the father regularly abused the mother in front of the children and the children were unable to go to school regularly.
The Family Court ordered that the three children be moved to their grandmother’s home and that the father would temporarily not be allowed to go near them or the grandmother, except on scheduled visits with the presence of the grandmother or NYCCS. Not long after, the grandmother and the three children moved to Pennsylvannia to stay with relatives.
On August 2010, the mother petitioned the Court to have one of the kids returned to her. She didn’t ask for the other two then because she knew that they were happy and safe and regularly attending school. The Court granted her request. The judge also ordered that the father would not be allowed to go near the child and the mother except for visits where NYCCS had to be present. Also, the mother had to go to the domestic violence shelter recommended by NYCCS, the required counseling sessions and cooperate with NYCCS.
Mother and child then went to a domestic violence shelter through PATH. They stayed there until September 8, 2010, until they discovered that the father had discovered where they were staying, and they were forced to leave. On September 12, 2010, they returned to PATH and waited to be placed in a different domestic violence shelter. After some days, they went to stay with the mother’s aunt. Mother and child were soon removed from PATH because the mother was not able to sign up within 48 hours. She also did not go to therapy or contact NYCCS. NYCCS did not contact her or her relatives. And even though mother and child had been forced to move again and again because the father violated the protection order, NYCCS did not do anything against the father.
Instead, on September 14, 2010, the Court ordered the mother to show up in court with her child. On September 20, 2010, after learning of this court order, the mother brought the child to court. Afer this, NYCCS held a “child safety conference” and decided to take the child away and put him in foster care with non-relatives. This was done without a court order. NYCCS then also took the other two children who were with relatives and put them in foster care with non-relatives.
The next day, the Court ordered NYCCS to explain its actions. According to the child care worker assigned to the case, the three children were taken from their home and put in foster care to protect them from imminent harm. She said that there was a huge change in the mother’s situation since the Court had ordered that one of her children be returned to her. There was also the possibility that she would return to the father. The child care worker admitted that she had no evidence of this. In fact, when asked, the mother said that she had no plans of doing so. However, since she did not follow the court order (she stopped going to the domestic violence shelter and did not go to therapy), the child care worker said she could not be trusted.
In the end, the Family Court ordered that the three children be returned to their mother. How did they come to this decision? There are many things to be considered in deciding whether or not children should be removed from their homes in cases of domestic violence. First, there should be evidence that the child is harmed or that there is immediate harm to the child. Then, alternatives to removing the child from home should be considered.
Removal of the child should always be the last choice. The State of New York has always focused on laws that try and keep the family together, while keeping the children safe. Many studies have shown that when children are removed from their homes, there are always emotional and psychological effects. Before deciding to remove the child, the Court should consider first other ways of lessening the harm or possible harm. For example, the Court can place a restraining order on the abusive parent or provide services to the abused parent.
In this case, there was no evidence to show that the children experienced harm or that there was imminent harm to them. Also, the reason why the mother had not stayed in the shelter was to keep herself and the child safe. This safety had been compromised when the father found out where they were staying. NYCSS should have done something about this.
Also, NYCSS should not have taken the two other children from the home of the mother’s relatives and put them in foster care. There was evidence to show that they were safe and happy, and yet they were taken from their home without even a court order. It was unfair to the mother, who was a victim of domestic violence, to suffer for the sins of her husband and have her children taken away. It was also unfair for the children, who were safe with their relatives, to suffer the trauma of being taken from their home, for the sins of their father.
The Court should always choose the option that is in the best interest of the children. In the end, the Family Court decided to put a restraining order against the father, and to return all three children to their mother.
It is a very traumatic experience to feel that your rights are being violated. Not only that, going to court can be difficult because of the drain on your time and money. Stephen Bilkis & Associates can help you through this and make things easier for you. They can give you the advice and guidance you need and also recommend expert lawyers.
Stephen Bilkis & Associates has an office in Corona, New York, and many others conveniently located around the State.