City doesn’t need to return child to birth mother’s care, Brooklyn judge rules
A mother accused of repeatedly neglecting her child is not entitled to the benefit of reasonable efforts being exerted for the safe return of the child to the parental home.
The New York City Administration for Children Services (ACS) filed a petition in Brooklyn’s Family Court to have a 9-month old child removed from her parental home on account of neglect and abuse. ACS believed that Cashmina A.E. was not properly cared for by her mother, Dominique A.E., and alleged that Cashmina was lacking for “adequate food, clothing and shelter.”
Removing Cashmina from the home while proceeding with the process of permanent removal, ACS made repeated attempts, beginning in April, to serve Dominique with notice that a petition was filed against her but failed at each attempt. Unknown to ACS, Dominique was behind bars at the time.
During a September hearing, ACS requested that it be relieved from its duty to exercise reasonable efforts to allow Cashmina to remain in Dominique’s care. New York law requires ACS to make efforts to make it possible for a child to return safely to his/her home after initial ACS removal. This requirement is abandoned, however, when a court finds that enumerated circumstances exist sufficient enough to relieve ACS of its burden.
One such circumstance, Family Court Judge Lillian Wan noted, “is where the parental rights of the parent to a sibling of the child have been involuntarily terminated.”
Prior to the Cashmina’s birth, Dominique had her parental rights involuntarily terminated with respect to three of her children, and a finding of negligence was issued against Dominique for a fourth child. In one instance, Wan revealed, “[Family] court entered a finding that the [Dominique] abandoned the child by reason of her failure to visit or communicate with the child for a period of six months.”
Dominique never appeared for any of her termination hearings and, it appears from court documents, did not attempt to provide reasons for her absence.
In the case of Cashmina, Wan found Dominique’s testimony “vague and incredible.” Dominique testified that she attempted to contact Cashmina’s caseworker repeatedly but was only able to leave one voicemail; and that the instances where she was unable to make contact happened because she did not have access to the caseworker’s phone numbers.
Dominique was temporarily removed from prison to appear for Cashmina’s ACS hearings. As Wan deduced, “[t]here is no evidence regarding a release date for [Dominique], and the court cannot speculate as to whether the mother might request such [parenting skills] services upon her release from jail.”
Given the number of children removed from Dominique’s care and her arrests and subsequent incarceration, Wan found it unlikely that Dominique and Cashmina will be reunified in the “foreseeable future.” As such, Wan relieved ACS of its duty to make reasonable efforts to keep Cashmina in her mother’s home and allowed for a hearing of permanent removal to commence in January 2014.
Juliana Chereji, Esq., from Brooklyn Defenders Services, represented Dominique in this hearing. Frank St. Jacques, Esq., argued for ACS.
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