When a family is physically separated by state social service workers, it’s emotionally wrenching for all involved. Putting the pieces back together takes time, effort – and an experienced family law attorney.
While the New York Administration for Children’s Services does adhere to general guidelines regarding what steps a parent must take in order to restore their family, the reality is family courts are given a broad range of discretion over these matters. The details of each case will be carefully weighed and considered, and the ultimate decider will be what is in the best interests of the child.
In general, barring some extreme circumstances, courts have held reunification should be the ultimate goal. In fact, if a child has been placed in state custody/foster care for any reason, it indicates serious underlying issues that must be addressed.
Our Brooklyn ACS defense and appeals lawyers well understand how important the court considers these matters, and we will remain staunchly committed to helping our clients secure reunification by carefully guiding them through each of the necessary legal steps.
Often, this involves securing – and sticking with – treatment for substance abuse, chronic homelessness, mental illness and other problems the court deems detrimental to a child’s welfare. It also means keeping child visitation appointments, securing adequate employment and displaying good decision-making.
It’s estimated more than half of children in state care have a case plan that includes reunification, so it is a primary goal for state workers. Additionally, federal statistics indicate 7 out of 10 children in foster care remain so for less than one year. However, to ensure those reunification efforts are successful and families don’t wind up in a similar situation months later, it’s imperative to follow through with case plans.
When this does not happen or when legal representation is inadequate, parents may lose the opportunity to mend their families.
That was seen recently in the case of In the Matter of Davina R.M.R. L. and Jennifer A., before the Supreme Court of New York, Appellant Division, Second Department. In this case, mother appealed the family court’s order terminating her parental rights following a finding of permanent neglect of a child, the custody of whom was transferred to ACS for adoption purposes.
According t court records, ACS “made diligent efforts to assist mother in maintaining contact with the child and planning for the child’s future.” Those efforts reportedly included scheduling and setting up visitation, establishing a case plan, making referrals for evaluations and treatment of mental health and anger issues. The agency also reportedly advised mother on obtaining a steady income source and housing, but mother remained non-compliant. Although she did attend some parenting classes, the court found her failure to secure adequate housing or a job indicated she was not serious about her efforts. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the family court’s findings.
In another recent case, In the Matter of William Z., the same court affirmed here again both a father and mother permanently neglected subject child. Parents reportedly failed to attend parenting classes, remain in drug treatment programs or keep scheduled child visitation appointments. The court ruled ultimately it was in the best interest of the child to terminate parental rights, particularly as he had lived with his foster parents the majority of his life.
While reunification can be challenging, it is worth it to bring families back together.
We can help.
If you are seeking family reunification in New York City, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.
In the Matter of William Z., Dec. 17, 2014, Supreme Court of New York, Appellant Division, Second Department
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