In the Matter of JAKOB Z. and Another, Alleged to be Neglected Children. BROOME COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, Respondent; MATTHEW Z., Appellant, and MARE AA., Respondent.
Calendar Date: November 20, 2017
Theodore J. Stein, Woodstock, for appellant.
P. Coulson, Broome County Department of Social Services,
Binghamton, for Broome County Department of Social Services,
Christopher A. Pogson, Binghamton, for Mare AA., respondent.
O. Gaji, Binghamton, attorney for children.
Before: McCarthy, J.P., Rose, Devine, Mulvey and Rumsey, JJ.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
from an order of the Family Court of Broome County (Young,
J.), entered November 22, 2016, which granted
petitioner's application, in a proceeding pursuant to
Family Ct Act article 10, to adjudicate the subject children
to be neglected.
Matthew Z. (hereinafter the father) and respondent Mare AA.
(hereinafter the mother) are the parents of a son (born in
2005) and a daughter (born in 2008). Petitioner commenced
this proceeding against respondents for neglecting their
children. The mother made an admission of neglect, which
Family Court accepted. At the fact-finding hearing with
respect to the father, petitioner elicited testimony from its
caseworker and the mother. The father did not testify or
offer any evidence. Family Court found that the father
neglected his two children, placed the children under
petitioner's supervision and imposed numerous conditions
on the father. He now appeals.
affirm. A petitioner seeking to establish neglect must show,
by a preponderance of the evidence, that the children's
"physical, mental or emotional condition has been
impaired or is in imminent danger of becoming impaired"
and that the actual or threatened harm to the children
results from the parent's failure to exercise a minimum
degree of care in providing the children with proper
supervision or guardianship or by inflicting excessive
corporal punishment (Family Ct Act §§ 1012 [f] [i]
[B]; 1046 [b] [i]; see Nicholson v Scoppetta, 3
N.Y.3d 357, 368 ). "Previous statements made by
[a] child relating to any allegations of abuse or neglect
shall be admissible in evidence, but if uncorroborated, such
statements shall not be sufficient to make a fact-finding of
abuse or neglect" (Family Ct Act § 1046 [a] [vi]).
"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" if they are supported by a sound and
substantial basis in the record (Matter of Justin CC.
[Tina CC.], 77 A.D.3d 1056, 1057  [internal
citations omitted], lv denied 16 N.Y.3d 702');">16 N.Y.3d 702 ;
see Matter of Emmanuel J. [Maximus L.], 149 A.D.3d
1292, 1294 ).
hearing, the caseworker testified that she noticed bruising
on the son's elbow and a laceration in his armpit.
Pictures of these injuries were entered into evidence. The
son told the caseworker that the father became angry about a
shirt, so he ripped it off the son's body, causing him to
cry. The daughter told the caseworker that she did not see
the incident, but heard it and saw the son's arm
bleeding. The mother also did not observe the incident, but
she heard it, saw the torn shirt and saw the son upset,
flushed and crying. The caseworker testified that the father
admitted being angry that his son lied about whether the
shirt fit properly, and admitted being rough when removing
the shirt from the son. The statements from the mother and
the father, as well as the pictures, corroborated the
statements of the children, establishing that the father
caused bruises and a laceration to the son. Whether this is
classified as excessive corporal punishment or inadequate
guardianship, the father impaired the son's physical and
emotional condition, or at least placed him in imminent
danger of being impaired.
mother testified about an incident a few days later in which
the father became angry about table manners. He yelled and
banged his hand on the table, causing the children to become
quiet and reserved. After the father and the mother argued,
he locked the mother out of the house and she called the
police. The father then barricaded himself in a bedroom with
the children, blocking the door with furniture such that they
could not leave for approximately three hours. The caseworker
testified that, when the door finally opened, both children
saw the police with shields and guns, and the daughter said
she was scared that the father might get shot by the police.
The independent out-of-court statements of the children
cross-corroborated each other, as well as being corroborated
by the mother's testimony (see Matter of Annarae I.
[Jennifer K.], 148 A.D.3d 1243, 1246 , lv
denied 29 N.Y.3d 909');">29 N.Y.3d 909 ; Matter of Dawn M.
[Michael M.], 134 A.D.3d 1197, 1198 ).
the daughter told the caseworker that she noticed bruises on
the mother "all the time." The caseworker testified
that both children told her that they became upset when the
parties would argue. The mother acknowledged that the
children were home for at least two incidents of physical
abuse perpetrated upon her by the father. The father told the
caseworker that he had been arrested for violating an order
of protection prohibiting him from harassing the mother, and
he did not blame the mother for being afraid of him based on
what he had done to her. The mother testified to an incident
in which the father pushed her on the stairs, causing her to
fall. According to the mother, the daughter witnessed this
incident. The daughter told the caseworker that during this
incident the mother was crying and asking the father to leave
her alone. The witnessing of this act of domestic violence,
which was part of a pattern, provides an ...