In the Matter of JERHIA EE. and Others, Permanently Neglected Children. BROOME COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, Respondent; BENJAMIN EE., Appellant, et al., Respondent.
Calendar Date: November 14, 2017
K. Miller, McGraw, for appellant.
P. Coulson, Broome County Department of Social Services,
Binghamton, for respondent.
John Pelella, Owego, attorney for the children.
Before: Garry, P.J., Lynch, Clark, Aarons and Pritzker, JJ.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
from a corrected order of the Family Court of Broome County
(Young, J.), entered November 22, 2016, which, in a
proceeding pursuant to Social Services Law § 384-b,
granted petitioner's motion to revoke a suspended
judgment, and terminated the parental rights of respondent
Benjamin EE. (hereinafter the father) is the father of three
children (born in 2004, 2005 and 2008). Since October 2009,
the children have been in petitioner's care and custody.
In May 2013, petitioner commenced this permanent neglect
proceeding against the father seeking to terminate his
parental rights . In December 2013, the father
consented to a finding of permanent neglect and was granted a
suspended judgment for a period of eight months. Petitioner
thereafter moved to revoke the suspended judgment. Following
fact-finding, dispositional and in camera hearings with the
children, Family Court, in 2016, revoked the suspended
judgment and terminated the father's parental rights.
This appeal by the father ensued.
purpose of a suspended judgment is to provide a parent who
has been found to have permanently neglected his or her
[children] with a brief period within which to become a fit
parent with whom the [children] can be safely reunited"
(Matter of Dominique VV. [Kelly VV.], 145 A.D.3d
1124, 1125  [internal quotation marks and citations
omitted], lv denied 29 N.Y.3d 901');">29 N.Y.3d 901 ; see
Matter of Alexsander N. [Lena N.], 146 A.D.3d 1047, 1048
, lv denied 29 N.Y.3d 903');">29 N.Y.3d 903 ; Matter
of Donte LL. [Crystal LL.], 141 A.D.3d 907, 907 ).
The parent must comply with the terms of the suspended
judgment during this grace period and, upon a showing by a
preponderance of the evidence of the parent's
noncompliance, Family Court may revoke the suspended judgment
and terminate his or her parental rights (see Matter of
Hazel OO. [Roseanne OO.], 133 A.D.3d 1126, 1127 ;
Matter of Abbigail EE. [Elizabeth EE.], 106 A.D.3d
1205, 1207 ; Matter of Clifton ZZ. [Latrice
ZZ.], 75 A.D.3d 683, 684 ). Great deference is
accorded to Family Court's factual findings, and they
will not be disturbed if supported by a sound and substantial
basis in the record (see Matter of Alexandria A. [Ann
B.], 93 A.D.3d 1105, 1106 , lv denied 19
N.Y.3d 805 ).
the terms of the suspended judgment, the father was required,
among other things, to "actively participate and
cooperate in substance abuse evaluations, " to submit to
random drug screens and to follow through with counseling and
treatment recommendations. The father was also required to
make diligent efforts to secure housing that had at least one
bedroom. Family Court found that the father failed to comply
with the material terms of the suspended judgment, and we
conclude that the record evidence supports this conclusion
(see Matter of Cody D. [Brittiany F.], 127 A.D.3d
1258, 1259 , lv denied 25 N.Y.3d 913');">25 N.Y.3d 913 ).
According to the hearing testimony of petitioner's
caseworker, multiple times the father refused to attend drug
screens, and, the one time that he did, he tested positive
for cocaine. The father was advised of the importance of
attending these drug screens but, in response to this
communication, he just laughed. During the period of the
suspended judgment, the father missed scheduled visits with
the children. He also did not have his own residence, but
rented a room in "a boarding house setting." The
caseworker further stated that the father was given bus
passes to alleviate transportation issues, but he did not use
them to visit the children or attend drug screens. In view of
the foregoing, we conclude that a sound and substantial basis
in the record supports Family Court's determination to
revoke the suspended judgment (see Matter of Donte LL.
[Crystal LL.], 141 A.D.3d at 908; Matter of Jason H.
[Lisa K.], 118 A.D.3d 1066, 1067-1068 ; Matter
of Frederick MM., 23 A.D.3d 951, 953 ).
further agree with Family Court that termination of the
father's parental rights and freeing the children for
adoption served the best interests of the children. The
children have been in petitioner's care and custody since
2009. Furthermore, the children have developed a strong bond
and relationship with their foster mother and have thrived in
her care (see Matter of Cody D. [Brittiany F.], 127
A.D.3d at 1259). Family Court found, and the record
discloses, that the father did not maintain adequate housing
for the children nor had a realistic plan to care for them.
Based on the foregoing, and taking into account the
children's testimony at the in camera hearing and the
father's failure to comply with the terms of the
suspended judgment, Family Court's determination will not
be disturbed (see Matter of Sequoyah Z. [Melissa
Z.], 127 A.D.3d 1518, 1521 , lvs denied
25 N.Y.3d 911, 912 ; Matter of Katie I. [Jonathan
I.], 116 A.D.3d 1309, 1311-1312 ; Matter of
Cole WW. [Amanda WW.], 106 A.D.3d 1408, 1410 ,
lvs denied 21 N.Y.3d 864, 865 ).
P.J., Lynch, Clark and Pritzker, JJ., concur.
that the corrected order is ...