In re Ruth Joanna O. O., A Child Under the Age of Eighteen Years, etc., Melissa O., Respondent-Appellant, The Administration for Children's Services, Petitioner-Respondent.
mother appeals from the order of fact-finding of the Family
Court, Bronx County (Joan L. Piccirillo, J.), entered on or
about January 23, 2015, which, after a hearing, determined
that she neglected the subject child.
N. Feinman, White Plains, for appellant.
Zachary W. Carter, Corporation Counsel, New York (Emma
Grunberg and Fay Ng of counsel), for respondent.
A. Steckler, The Legal Aid Society, New York (Susan Clement
and Kristen Calabrese of counsel), attorney for the child.
Tom, J.P. David B. Saxe Rosalyn H. Richter Judith J. Gische
Ellen Gesmer, JJ.
child protective proceeding, appellant Melissa O. (the
mother) appeals from the finding of the Family Court that she
neglected her three-month old baby girl. After being
discovered at 3 a.m. walking in the middle of a road in
Texas, suffering from delusions and talking to herself while
her infant daughter was left in the front seat of a vehicle
stopped somewhere on the road, the mother was hospitalized in
a Texas psychiatric ward. Thereafter, the mother, due to her
abnormal, aggressive and threatening behavior, was examined
by two psychiatrists in New York who determined she was
delusional and assessed her as suffering from psychosis.
Although she was prescribed medication for her condition, the
mother never acknowledged her serious mental health condition
and refused to take the medication. In addition, the
mother's unfounded fear that her infant daughter had been
raped led her to repeatedly "check" the child's
physical condition and then make an unnecessary trip to the
a preponderance of the evidence in the record supports the
finding that the mother's untreated mental condition
exposed the child to a substantial risk of harm (Family Court
Act § 1046[b][i]; see Matter of Isaiah M. [Antoya
M.], 96 A.D.3d 516');">96 A.D.3d 516, 517 [1st Dept 2012]), we affirm.
16, 2013, the Administration for Children's Services
(ACS) filed a neglect petition against the mother alleging,
inter alia, that while the mother was hospitalized from May 4
to May 9, 2013 at Green Oaks Hospital in Texas, she was
diagnosed with severe mood disorder with psychosis and
postpartum depression, refused to take her prescribed
medication (Risperdal), and was referred for further mental
health services. The petition alleged that the mother
suffered from a mental illness that impaired her ability to
care for the child, and had placed the child at imminent risk
a hearing could be held, by order dated May 16, 2013, Family
Court temporarily placed the child with the maternal aunt but
permitted the mother to reside in the same home provided she
not be left alone with the child.
fact-finding hearing, the court received in evidence an
Office of Children and Family Services Intake Report, dated
May 13, 2013, called in by Julie Burkes, a child protective
worker at the Department of Family and Protective Services in
Plano, Texas. The report stated that on May 3, 2013, the
mother was found walking in the middle of a Texas road,
talking to herself. The mother stated that she had killed her
husband, that she and her daughter were "the devil,
" and that she also was Jesus's wife. At the time of
those statements and observations, the child was found in the
front seat of the mother's car. The mother was
"extremely delusional and hyper religious, " and
was taken to a "mental health facility, " where she
remained until May 9, 2013, but was "non-compliant"
and "refused medications."
the mother's hospitalization in Texas, her cousin, who
lived in the area, was called to take the child. Upon her
release, her sister from New York picked her up and
subsequently the mother and child returned to New York.
court also received in evidence medical records from New York
City's St. Barnabas Hospital (SBH) pertaining to the
mother's treatment there on May 11 and 12, 2013.
According to those records, around noon on May 11, 2013, one
day after returning from Texas, the mother walked into the
SBH emergency room with the child, and the mother's
sister, asking that the child "be check[ed]." The
mother presented with "erratic behavior."
Specifically, she was "screaming" and told triage
personnel that she had been raped while in a psychiatric
hospital in Texas. Medical personnel were unable to obtain
her vital signs due to her "aggressive" behavior.
around 12:50 p.m., the mother told medical personnel in the
adult emergency department that a "[F]ree [M]ason
kill[ed]" and "raped" "my baby, "
and thus the child needed to be medically examined. The
mother also stated that she herself was raped by a "Free
Mason" and she wanted to be tested for sexually
transmitted diseases. She "was acting irrationally,
screaming, and [she] want[ed] to walk out" of the
hospital with the child. She also exhibited "threatening
behavior" and was assessed as suffering from
"[p]sychosis" and constituting a "threat to
staff and other patients, " such that she had to be
"physically restrained" and sedated with Haldol and
Versed by injection. A psychiatric evaluation was ordered for
the mother, and the child was taken to the pediatric unit.
around 1:35 p.m., an emergency department physician, Jean
Dorce, spoke to the mother's sister, who stated, inter
alia, that the mother had been stopped by police in Dallas,
Texas and brought to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with
an "unknown" psychiatric condition and released
with a prescription for medication. The mother's sister
also stated that the mother had returned to New York from
Dallas on the night of May 10, 2013.
a psychiatric consult conducted at SBH by Dr. Jean Robert
Jacques on the night of May 11, 2013, the mother was unable
to provide "a relevant history, " except to say
that police officers in Texas had brought her to a
psychiatric hospital, where she remained for one week, that
she "was medicated" there but had "refuse[d]
meds, " and that while she had been hospitalized, her
cousin "raped" the child. Dr. Jacques found the
mother to be "paranoid, suspicious and guarded."
Her thought content was marked by "paranoid
ideation." She had "poor" judgment,
"limited" insight, and "fair" cognition.
Dr. Jacques diagnosed the mother with "psychosis NOS
[not otherwise specified]" and directed that she be held
in the emergency department for further evaluation and
administered Risperdal. However, the mother once again
refused that medication and it was not administered.
following morning, the mother was evaluated by Dr. Salim Al
Salem, to whom she reported, inter alia, that she was
separated from her husband a month ago due to "domestic
violence" and that her husband was "a member of
[the] [F]ree [M]ason cult, " whose other members were
"backing him, " which explained why she had been
denied gas at a Texas gas station. As for the events that led
to her hospitalization in Dallas, she reported that she had
driven with the child from Louisiana to the home of a cousin,
whom she believed was "doing witchcraft" that
"affected [the child]." She left her cousin's
home to find a motel, but police officers
"followed" her and removed the child from her care,
delivered the child to her cousin, and brought her to a
psychiatric hospital. When she was discharged from the
hospital, she picked up the child and, along with her sister,
flew from Dallas to New York City.
mother brought the child to SBH for a medical examination
because she believed the child had been raped by her cousin.
The rape claim was based on having observed a "cotton
bud" lubricated with "[V]aseline" "go
high up in [the child's] rectum" when she was
dealing with the child's constipation.
Salem diagnosed the mother with "[d]elusional
[d]isorder" and concluded that she currently was having
a "delusion of persecutory type." After he spoke to
the mother's sister and learned that she was willing to
have the mother live with her, he directed that the mother
receive Abilify, with the "first dose NOW" and a
30-day supply to be provided to her at discharge, along with
a referral for follow-up care at Fordham Tremont Mental
Health Center (Fordham Tremont).
emergency department discharge note listed the mother's
discharge diagnosis as delusional disorder, "[a]ctive,
" and indicated that medications were "given as
ordered" with instruction to follow up with Fordham
Tremont "in 3-7 days."
medical records also include entries dated June 11, 2013,
when the mother came to the emergency department requesting
to be reevaluated because she believed that she might not
need medication anymore, and noted that she wanted to breast
feed her child and that the medication was too costly. A
"psych consult" was ordered, but the mother
"left against medical advice" before one could be
completed. However, the mother was given a refill of her
medication "as a courtesy" and written instructions
to follow up with Fordham Tremont. The followup was noted to
hearing, ACS caseworker Vanessa Wallace, who had been
assigned to this matter, testified that, regarding her
hospitalization in Texas, the mother told her that police
officers had stopped her on a "highway" because
they were Free Masons, who were "trying to take [the
child]." The mother showed Ms. Wallace her discharge
papers, dated May 8, 2013, from the Texas hospital (Green
Oaks), and the papers indicated that the mother had
"refused" medication. The mother told Ms. Wallace
that Green Oaks had prescribed her Risperdal, but she did not
take it because she was not "crazy."
mother also reported to Ms. Wallace that after she put a
Q-tip in the child's rectum, she concluded that her
cousin had raped the child, noting that before the child had
stayed with the cousin, a Q-tip would not go "all the
way in." The mother did not tell Ms. Wallace that the
child had been bleeding. The mother also asserted that she
had been restrained at SBH when she did not want medical
personnel to examine the child. Although she had been
prescribed Abilify, she did not inform her doctor of her
complaints about Abilify's side effects, and the mother
told Ms. Wallace that she was not going to take Abilify. The
mother also told Ms. Wallace that she had been directed to
follow up with Fordham Tremont within three to seven days,
but that the mother admitted she had still not done so by the
mother testified at the hearing that her daughter was born on
February 14, 2013 and that the mother was her primary
caretaker. She breast-fed her, changed her diapers and bathed
her. The mother claimed that while she cared for the child,
the child was always healthy and that she took the child to
the pediatrician for regular checkups.
separating from her husband in March 2013, she and the child
lived together at a friend's house in Louisiana, but
later they had to leave the state because they had
"nowhere to stay." When she decided it was more
economical to fly to New York from Dallas, Texas, rather than
from Louisiana, she called her cousin, Francis Monio, who
lived in Dallas, and asked him to "keep [her] for two
days." However, when she arrived there, she learned that
Monio wanted to separate her from the child because he had
received a phone call from someone stating that the mother
"was sick" and could not go to New York with the
child. The mother then "decided not to stay" with
Monio and went to find a motel.
to the mother, at 3:00 a.m. on May 9, 2013, after she had
driven 300 miles towards Dallas, she parked her car on the
side of the road to rest. While she was standing by her car
on the side of the road to retrieve her cell phone from the
backseat, police officers approached her, handcuffed her, and
removed her to a psychiatric facility. She did not understand
why the police officers had done this, and while in the
hospital, she was not given a chance to talk, other than to
say that she was "not sick." The mother was aware
that Green Oaks medical personnel had diagnosed her with
severe mood disorder with psychosis and prescribed her
Risperdal, but she disagreed with the diagnosis and did not
know why they prescribed her Risperdal, ...