Recently chronicled in the New York Daily News was the reported neglect of an infant and toddler by a young single mother who was accused of leaving the children at home alone and in filthy conditions and in a room with freshly-smoked marijuana.
On the surface, our Brooklyn ACS appeal lawyers know that it sounds like an open-and-shut case. After all, no one would argue that it's acceptable to leave a 1- and 2-year-old at home alone for any length of time, and no one wants to think of infants being left in soiled clothing in close proximity to potentially dangerous drugs.
However, as in so many of these cases, the details that emerge begin to paint a picture that isn't quite so black-and-white.
In this case, it was a neighbor who alerted authorities after noting that an adult at the apartment had left without anyone appearing to be inside with the children. The neighbor peered into a window and saw the two children looking back at her, one inside a crib. They were alone.
Sheriff's deputies arrived and found the children alone, in conditions they described as "squalid." On the living room table, there was reportedly a half-smoked marijuana cigarette, next to a plate of spaghetti that had turned moldy. The children were found to be wearing garments that were soiled.
The mother returned soon after police arrived. She was reportedly surprised to learn that an 18-year-old she'd hired to babysit was not there. When authorities contacted the babysitter, she at first said she'd been to the house, but had left to go to the store for 30 minutes. She later changed her story and said she was never there at all, so it's not clear which version was true.
The mother lamented to a news crew, which she allowed to tour her home, that she had hired a babysitter, and therefore couldn't understand why authorities were charging her with neglect and had removed her children. She described her home as "a little messy." However, she said as a working single mother, housework sometimes took a backseat to other priorities. She said she was horrified to hear that the children had been left in dirty diapers and that the marijuana cigarette belonged to her boyfriend - the father of her children - who does not live there but occasionally visits.
When we begin to analyze the totality of the circumstances, again, it does not appear as initially presented. And this is why appeals of findings handed down by the Administration for Children's Services in Brooklyn are so important.
The agency is charged with the protection of children, and it's a responsibility that many of its workers take very seriously. However, these individuals tend to be overworked and underpaid. Judgments have to be made quickly, and workers will usually err on the side of caution. Under those circumstances, mistakes are inevitable. Parents are falsely accused and families are needlessly separated.
But you are not without recourse.
Appealing an ACS finding of neglect or abuse will start with a full consultation. Copies of the ACS records will be requested and reviewed by your attorney. At that point, a formal request is made to change the finding to unfounded (based on what is in the reports) and to have the record expunged. A legal brief may be submitted, detailing why an insufficient record exits for the finding that was ultimately reached. In some cases, a Fair Hearing will be set before an Administrative Law Judge. At that time, your lawyer will advocate for the dismissal of the case and the expungement or sealing of your records.
If you are seeking to appeal a Brooklyn ACS neglect or abuse finding, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.
Florida mom faces child neglect charges after children, aged 1 and 2, found dirty, alone with marijuana: police, Oct. 1, 2013, By Nina Golgowski, The New York Daily News
More Blog Entries:
Brooklyn Child Custody and Abuse Claims: Proving Your Case, Sept. 18, 2013, Brooklyn ACS Appeals Attorney Blog