The opinion of the court was delivered by: Timothy J. Lawliss, J.
Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the printed Official Reports.
The facts of this case are both straight forward and common in the context of permanency hearings under Article 10-A of the Family Court Act. The subject child is freed for adoption.*fn1 The child is now living in a pre-adoptive home and all parties are working to finalize the adoption. As the child is freed for adoption, but the adoption has not yet been finalized, the Court is required to conduct a permanency hearing. see, Family Court Act §§ 1088 and 1089(d)(a)(1) & (3).*fn2 Because the child is not being returned to a parent as a result of this permanency hearing (the child having been freed for adoption), the Court is statutorily required to determine whether the permanency goal for the child should be approved or modified. see, Family Court Act § 1089(d)(2)(i). When making such a determination, the statute provides that:
The permanency goal may be determined to be:
(B)placement for adoption with the local social services official filing a petition for termination of parental rights;
(C)referral for legal guardianship;
(D)permanent placement with a fit and willing relative; or
(E)placement in another planned permanent living arrangement that includes a significant connection to an adult willing to be a permanency resource for the child if the local social services official has documented to the court a compelling reason for determining that it would not be in the best interests of the child to return home, be referred for termination of parental rights and placed for adoption, placed with a fit and willing relative, or placed with a legal guardian; see, Family Court Act § 1089(d)(2)(i). On these common facts, none of the listed permanency hearing goals are logical or rational.
Option (A), return to parent, is obviously not appropriate. The parents' parental rights have already been permanently terminated and the child has not yet been adopted. Thus, the child has no legal parent.
Option (B), placement for adoption with the local social services official filing a petition for termination of parental rights, is also illogical. There is no need to file a petition for termination of parental rights because the parents' rights have already been permanently terminated. Furthermore, the child is already placed in a pre-adoptive home. Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition, defines a goal as "the result or achievement towards which effort is directed; aim; end." A goal is something that is being worked towards, not something that has already been accomplished. Certainly one can achieve a goal, but once one achieves the goal, it is an achievement, it is no longer a current goal. In this case, the child has already been placed in a pre-adoptive home and there is no need to work towards the filing of a petition for a termination of parental rights.
Assuming without finding that option (C), referral for legal guardianship, is a legally available option, it is simply not the goal in this case. As indicated above, everyone involved in the case, including the Court, believes that the appropriate goal is the finalization of the adoption process.
Assuming without finding that option (D), permanent placement with a fit and willing relative, is a legally available option, it also is simply not the goal in this case. Again, as indicated above, everyone involved in the case, including the Court, believes ...