Parents have the fundamental right to discipline their child as they see fit - within the confines of the law. However, our Brooklyn ACS lawyers recognize problems can arise when definitions of appropriate discipline vary.
Often a parent's cultural background and personal upbringing play a role in their views on discipline. In a place diverse as New York City, sometimes the chasm between interpretations can be wide.
The same might be said of Los Angeles, where the case of In re A.E. played out before the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District, Division Eight. This case involved a young mother and father, both raised in rural Texas, who had moved to L.A. with their 3-year-old daughter.
One evening last summer, a neighbor called police after hearing a young child being spanked. The county sheriff's department responded, and found the young girl had two, six-inch welts on the back of her right leg, as well as several more on her buttocks.
The father, seemingly without hesitation, admitted he had struck the girl with his belt because she was misbehaving that day. Both parents considered spanking to be an appropriate form of discipline, though the mother denied knowing anything about welts on her daughter's legs.
The father was arrested for child abuse. After being red his Miranda rights, he told police the incident occurred when his daughter disobeyed her mother for the fourth time in less than one hour. The father was quoted as saying he did not act out of sport or fun, but "So that one day, just as I thank my parents for their care of me, she will do the same."
He indicated that he disciplined her with his belt on her butt. However, she turned at the last second, and he mistakenly struck her leg.
Following his arrest, a case worker with the state's family services agency opened a file on the family. The caseworker noted no signs of mental illness, drug abuse or any other circumstance that might indicate a danger to the child. The mother's uncle, who was temporarily living with the family, told the caseworker the parents were "good people" who were "doing their best" to raise the girl. He told the caseworker he had never seen either parent inappropriately discipline the girl.
The condition of the home was found to be safe and clean and all the child's needs were being met.The caseworker even noted the father was cooperative and motivated to change. He had even purchased a parenting book and later conceded to understanding why the discipline was not proper, and how he would react differently in the future.
And yet, a petition was filed by the state agency indicating the father was a danger to the child and should be removed from the home.
The court initially only allowed monitored visits between father and child, with the requirement he attend parenting courses. However, he was not permitted to have overnight visits in the family home.
He appealed on grounds that he was not a substantial danger to the child's physical and mental well-being. The appellate court agreed, finding the lower court failed to find by clear and convincing evidence the girl's health, safety, protection or physical or emotional well-being were in danger.
These kinds of cases can result in a substantial and unnecessary emotional and financial burden being placed on a family. Our attorneys are committed to helping your family achieve a swift and just solution to your ACS case that is in the best interest of you and your children.
For help with a Brooklyn ACS case, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.
In re A.E. , Aug. 4, 2014, California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District, Division Eight
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