In the Matter of ANNARAE I. and Others, Alleged to be Neglected Children. BROOME COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, Respondent; JENNIFER K., Appellant, et al., Respondent.
Calendar Date: January 11, 2017
Michelle I. Rosien, Philmont, for appellant.
Reinaldo B. Valenzuela, Broome County Department of Social
Services, Binghamton, for respondent.
F. Bailey, Binghamton, attorney for the children.
Before: McCarthy, J.P., Garry, Lynch, Rose and Aarons, JJ.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
from two orders of the Family Court of Broome County (Pines,
J.), entered June 16, 2015 and July 7, 2015, which, among
other things, granted petitioner's application, in a
proceeding pursuant to Family Ct Act article 10, to
adjudicate the subject children to be neglected.
Jennifer K. (hereinafter the mother) is the mother of four
daughters (born in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008). In August
2014, petitioner commenced this proceeding against the mother
and her then-boyfriend, respondent Jacob P., alleging that
they had neglected the children by, among other things,
exposing them to domestic violence. Jacob P. thereafter
stipulated to an order of neglect and admitted that the
police responded to a domestic violence incident in June 2014
involving him and the mother "while the children were
present" and that he continued to reside with and care
for the children after this incident despite the fact that
the mother had obtained an order of protection against him.
Following a fact-finding hearing, at which three caseworkers
from Child Protective Services testified regarding statements
made by each of the children, Family Court found that
petitioner had established that the mother neglected the
children . The mother now appeals.
mother contends that Family Court's determination lacks a
sound and substantial basis because the children's
statements to the caseworkers were uncorroborated and there
was no evidence presented that the children were exposed to
any incidents of domestic violence. We are not persuaded.
Although a child's out-of-court statement of neglect is
subject to a corroboration requirement in a Family Ct Act
article 10 proceeding (see Family Ct Act § 1046
[a] [vi]), it is well settled that "[a] relatively low
degree of corroborative evidence is sufficient to meet this
threshold, and the reliability of the corroboration, as well
as issues of credibility, are matters entrusted to the sound
discretion of Family Court and will not be disturbed unless
clearly unsupported by the record" (Matter of
Stephanie RR. [Pedro RR.], 140 A.D.3d 1237, 1238 
[internal quotation marks and citations omitted]; accord
Matter of Dylynn V. [Bradley W.], 136 A.D.3d 1160, 1162
). "While the mere repetition of an accusation by
a child is insufficient to corroborate the child's prior
account of abuse or neglect" (Matter of Dylynn V.
[Bradley W.], 136 A.D.3d at 1162 [citations omitted]),
"independent statements by children requiring
corroboration may corroborate each other" (Matter of
Dylan R. [Jeremy T.], 137 A.D.3d 1492, 1493 
[internal quotation marks, brackets and citation omitted],
lv denied 27 N.Y.3d 912');">27 N.Y.3d 912 ; see e.g. Matter
of Dawn M. [Michael M.], 134 A.D.3d 1197, 1198 ;
Matter of Justin A. [Derek C.], 133 A.D.3d 1106,
1108 , lv denied 27 N.Y.3d 904');">27 N.Y.3d 904 ).
fact-finding hearing, one of the caseworkers testified that
the children had separately disclosed that the mother and
Jacob P. fought in front of them and that they had observed
the police come to the home "a lot" because of
arguments and "big fights." Two of the children
also recounted an incident during which the mother and Jacob
P. were "pushing one another" and Jacob P. ended up
pushing one of the children. On another occasion, two of the
children witnessed the mother lock Jacob P. out of the home
during an argument and observed Jacob P. crawl back in
through a window. Further testimony revealed an incident
where Jacob P. was upset and threw clothing at both the
mother and the children. Another caseworker testified that
each child had disclosed feeling "scared" or
"unsafe" as a result of the fighting that
transpired between the mother and Jacob P. In addition to the
foregoing, the evidence established that, in early June 2014,
Jacob P. summoned the police to the mother's home after
she allegedly hit him and, when a police officer arrived, he
observed that the children were present. Later that same
month, the mother called the police after Jacob P. followed
her around the apartment, yelled at her in front of the
children and "smash[ed]" her dresser, after which
she sent the children to a neighbor's home. The mother
obtained an order of protection against Jacob P. as a result
of this incident, but she refused to follow the
caseworker's recommendation that she also obtain an order
of protection in favor of the children. Instead, the mother
allowed Jacob P. to continue to reside with her and engaged
in efforts to "reduce" the terms of the order.
Jacob P. was later arrested for violating the order of
protection after the mother called the police in August 2014
regarding a domestic incident that occurred while the
children were at the home.
from the incidents involving Jacob P., the mother also has a
history of engaging in domestic violence with her ex-husband
in the presence of the children. In this regard, one of the
caseworkers testified that the mother acknowledged that one
of the children was "very messed up" as a result of
witnessing domestic violence committed by her ex-husband and
that the children were all receiving counseling from a
domestic violence shelter to address what they had witnessed.
For her part, the mother acknowledged that, despite the
domestic violence history with her ex-husband, in January
2014, she allowed him to spend a substantial amount of time
in her home. The mother also admitted that Jacob P. was a
heroin addict, she let him back into her home after he had
relapsed and she advised all of the children not to be alone
with him. Throughout her testimony, the mother minimized her
vast history with domestic violence, Jacob P.'s behavior
and the reason the children are in counseling, thereby
demonstrating "that she lacked insight into the effect
her actions had on the children's emotional and physical
well-being" (Matter of Celine O. [Johanna Q.],
68 A.D.3d 1373, 1374 , lv denied 15 N.Y.3d 704');">15 N.Y.3d 704
light of the foregoing evidence, we find that, although none
of the children testified, their out-of-court statements
sufficiently cross-corroborated one another (see
Family Ct Act § 1046 [a] [vi]; Matter of Dawn M.
[Michael M.], 134 A.D.3d at 1198; Matter of Justin
CC. [Tina CC.], 77 A.D.3d 1056, 1059 , lv
denied 16 N.Y.3d 702');">16 N.Y.3d 702 ). Further, the cases
primarily relied upon by the mother involve either
circumstances where the child did not witness the domestic
violence (see Matter of Alyssa OO. [Andrew PP.], 68
A.D.3d 1158, 1160 ) or only one isolated incident of
domestic violence occurred in the child's presence
(see Matter of Eustace B. [Shondella M.], 76 A.D.3d
428, 429 ). After according due deference to Family
Court's credibility determinations, we find that the
record provides a sound and substantial basis to support the
finding of neglect (see Matter of Anthony FF. [Lisa
GG.], 105 A.D.3d 1273, 1274 ; Matter of Celine O.
[Johanna Q.], 68 A.D.3d at 1374).
McCarthy, J.P., Garry, Lynch and ...