In the Matter of MADALYNN I., Alleged to be a Permanently Neglected Child. TOMPKINS COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, Respondent; and KATELYNN J., Appellant.
Calendar Date: October 16, 2013
John J. Raspante, Utica, for appellant.
Joseph Cassidy, Tompkins County Department of Social Services, Ithaca, for respondent.
Donna C. Chin, Ithaca, attorney for the child.
Before: Rose, J.P., Stein, McCarthy and Garry, JJ.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Appeal from an order of the Family Court of Tompkins County (Rowley, J.), entered January 9, 2013, which granted petitioner's application, in a proceeding pursuant to Social Services Law § 384-b, to adjudicate the subject child to be permanently neglected, and terminated respondent's parental rights.
Respondent is the mother of two children, Madalynn I. and Mya LL. (born in 2010 and 2012, respectively). Prior to Mya's birth, petitioner filed a neglect petition against respondent as a result of her drug use and incidents of domestic violence between respondent and the children's father. As a result, Madalynn, who was seven months old at the time, was removed from respondent's custody and placed in the care of foster parents. Respondent subsequently became pregnant and continued to use drugs. Upon Mya's birth, respondent consented to her adoption by Madalynn's foster parents, and the two siblings have been residing together with the foster parents.
In June 2012, petitioner commenced this proceeding alleging that respondent permanently neglected Madalynn by, among other things, "fail[ing] to demonstrate the ability to assume responsibility for the care of the child or develop an alternative plan for the permanent care of the child."  In response thereto, respondent made various admissions, after which Family Court entered a finding of permanent neglect. Following a dispositional hearing, Family Court denied respondent's request for a suspended judgment and terminated her parental rights. Respondent now appeals and we affirm.
The factual context of this case is undisputed and respondent's sole contention on appeal is that Family Court should have issued a suspended judgment in lieu of terminating her parental rights. "A suspended judgment may be issued if it
is in the best interests of the child to allow the parent additional time to improve parenting skills and demonstrate his or her fitness to care for the child" (Matter of Crystal JJ. [Sarah KK.], 85 A.D.3d 1262, 1264 , lv denied 17 N.Y.3d 711  [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]; see Family Ct Act § 631 [b]; Matter of Nevaeh SS. [Valerie L.], 68 A.D.3d 1188, 1189 ). "The singular concern is the best interests of the child, and there is no presumption that any particular disposition, including the return of a child to a parent, promotes such interests" (Matter of Kellcie NN. [Sarah NN.], 85 A.D.3d 1251, 1252  [internal quotation marks and citation omitted]; accord Matter of Anastasia FF., 66 A.D.3d 1185, 1186 , lv denied 13 N.Y.3d 716 ; see Family Ct Act § 631; Matter of Nevaeh SS. [Valerie L.], 68 A.D.3d at 1189).
Based upon the record as a whole, we cannot say that Family Court abused its discretion in terminating respondent's parental rights (see Matter of Angelina BB. [Miguel BB.], 90 A.D.3d 1196, 1198 ; Matter of Crystal JJ. [Sarah KK.], 85 A.D.3d at 1264). At the time of the dispositional hearing, respondent had recently completed a long-term inpatient drug rehabilitation program and was residing in a supportive living program. Family Court recognized that respondent had made many positive changes. Indeed, she had maintained her sobriety for approximately seven months, terminated the volatile relationship she previously had with the children's father and was interacting positively with Madalynn during supervised visits. However, respondent was in a one-year diversionary program after pleading guilty to grand larceny in the fourth degree, had a history of relapse into substance abuse, and her ability to remain sober had not been challenged outside the structure of the supportive living program. In this regard, respondent described herself as being in "early recovery" and her ability to cope with the stressors of day-to-day parenting were untested. In fact, respondent's only contact with Madalynn had been in supervised settings.
Significantly, Madalynn is in the preadoptive foster home where she has resided since she was seven months old. She has formed a strong bond with her foster parents and her biological sister, who has already been adopted by them. There is no doubt that Madalynn is thriving in the care of her foster parents, who are providing her with a loving and stable home (see Matter of Alysheionna HH. [Tara II.], 101 A.D.3d 1413, 1415 , lv denied20 N.Y.3d 861 ; Matter of Neal TT. [Deborah UU.], 97 A.D.3d 869, 871 ). Under these circumstances and according deference to Family Court (see Matter of James J. [James K.], 97 A.D.3d 936, 939 ; Matter of Kellcie NN. [Sarah NN.], 85 A.D.3d at 1252), we find that, despite the significant and commendable progress made by respondent, there is a sound and substantial basis in the record to support Family Court's conclusion that termination of respondent's parental rights was in Madalynn's best interests, and we ...