In the Matter of Christopher S. (Anonymous). SCO Family of Services, respondent; Elizabeth S. (Anonymous), et al., appellants.
Submitted - October 10, 2017
Wilner, Jamaica, NY, for appellant Elizabeth S.
Gennusa, Jamaica, NY, for appellant Jose G.
Carrieri & Carrieri, P.C., Mineola, NY (Ralph R. Carrieri
of counsel), for respondent.
Seymour W. James, Jr., New York, NY (Tamara A. Steckler and
Susan Clement of counsel), attorney for the child.
C. BALKIN, J.P. JOHN M. LEVENTHAL LEONARD B. AUSTIN ANGELA G.
DECISION & ORDER
appeals by the mother and the father from an amended order of
fact-finding and disposition of the Family Court, Queens
County (Mary O'Donoghue, J.), dated August 8, 2016. The
amended order, after fact-finding and dispositional hearings,
found that both parents had permanently neglected the subject
child, terminated the parental rights of both parents, and
transferred guardianship and custody of the child to the
Commissioner of Social Services of the City of New York and
SCO Family of Services for the purpose of adoption.
that the amended order of fact-finding and disposition is
affirmed, without costs or disbursements.
subject child was born in May 2007, and was placed in foster
care upon his discharge from the hospital. He has lived with
the same foster mother since September 2007. In 2010, the
petitioner commenced this proceeding pursuant to Social
Services Law § 384-b to terminate the mother's
parental rights on the basis that she was unable to care for
the child due to her mental illness, and to terminate both
parents' parental rights on the basis of permanent
neglect. Thereafter, the petitioner withdrew the cause of
action alleging mental illness with respect to the mother.
After fact-finding and dispositional hearings, the Family
Court issued an amended order of fact-finding and
disposition, dated August 8, 2016, finding that the parents
permanently neglected the child, terminating their parental
rights, and transferring custody and guardianship of the
child to the Commissioner of Social Services of the City of
New York and the petitioner for the purpose of adoption. The
parents separately appeal.
mother's contention that the petition was
jurisdictionally defective since it failed to plead in detail
the diligent efforts undertaken by the petitioner to
encourage and strengthen the parents' relationship with
the child is unpreserved since it is raised for the first
time on appeal (see Matter of Ana M.G. [Rosealba
H.], 74 A.D.3d 419, 419; Matter of Gina Rachel
L., 44 A.D.3d 367, 368). In any event, a review of the
petition reveals that the allegations were sufficient to
notify the parents of the grounds on which the permanent
neglect petition was predicated (see Matter of Kevin
J., 55 A.D.3d 468, 468; Matter of Gina Rachel
L., 44 A.D.3d at 368). Moreover, even if the diligent
efforts were not sufficiently pleaded in detail, such a
deficiency would not be fatal, where, as here, the evidence
presented at the fact-finding hearing, including the progress
notes and the testimony of the caseworker, demonstrated the
diligent efforts taken by the petitioner to assist the
parents in formulating a plan for return of the child (see
Matter of Gina Rachel L., 44 A.D.3d at 368;
Matter of Kimberly Vanessa J., 37 A.D.3d 185, 185).
to the parents' contention, the petitioner established,
by clear and convincing evidence, that it made diligent
efforts to encourage and strengthen their relationship with
the child, which efforts were specifically tailored to the
parents' individual situation (see Social
Services Law § 384-b[a]; Matter of Hailey ZZ.
[Ricky ZZ.], 19 N.Y.3d 422, 430; Matter of Shaquan
D.M. [Shaquanna M.], 150 A.D.3d 1119, 1119-1120). These
efforts included, inter alia, making referrals to mental
health, parenting, and housing services, following up with
those programs, encouraging compliance with the programs, and
facilitating visitation (see Social Services Law
§ 384-b[f]; Matter of Melisha M.H. [Sheila
B.R.], 119 A.D.3d 788, 788;Matter of Elasia A.D.B.
[Crystal D.G.], 118 A.D.3d 778, 779; Matter of
Darryl A.H. [Olga Z.], 109 A.D.3d 824, 824). Despite
these efforts, the parents failed to plan for the child's
future. During the relevant time period, the mother was
hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital after she stopped
taking her medication, and both parents failed to
successfully complete parenting skills programs or gain
insight into their previous behavior and the need for
services, refused to take random drug tests, and failed to
attend visitation consistently. Contrary to the parents'
contention, consideration of events which took place between
the child's initial placement and the filing of the
petition on June 8, 2010, did not preclude a finding of
permanent neglect since the evidence established that the
parents had not fully complied with services as of that date
(cf. Matter of Tatianna K., 79 A.D.3d 1184, 1187).
The parents' "belated partial compliance with the
service plan was insufficient to preclude a finding of
permanent neglect" (Matter of Elasia A.D.B. [Crystal
D.G.], 118 A.D.3d at 779; see Matter of Tarmara F.J.
[Jaineen J.], 108 A.D.3d 543, 544; Matter of
Hadiyyah J.M. [Fatima D.R.], 91 A.D.3d 874, 875), and
there was clear and convincing evidence of the parents'
permanent neglect of the child (see Matter of Jeremy J.M.
[Brandy T.], 118 A.D.3d 796, 797; Matter of Mekhi
Kahalil G. [Ainsley M.J.], 99 A.D.3d 1003, 1005).
the Family Court properly determined that termination of the
parents' parental rights was in the child's best
interests (see Family Ct Act § 631; Matter of
Stephon B.M. [Barry J.M.],149 A.D.3d 1080, 1080;
Matter of Hector V.P. [Mariana V.],146 A.D.3d 889,
890). Contrary to the parents' contention, the entry of a
suspended judgment was not appropriate in light of their
continued lack of insight into their problems, and their
failure to acknowledge and address the issues preventing the
return of ...