In the Matter of Catalina A. (Anonymous). Administration for Children's Services, appellant; Evelyn C. (Anonymous), respondent. Docket No. N-23177-16
Zachary W. Carter, Corporation Counsel, New York, NY (Fay S.
Ng and Janet L. Zaleon of counsel), for appellant.
for Family Representation, Jamaica, NY (Sneha Shah and Laura
Eraso 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, SYLVIA O. HINDS-RADIX,
JOSEPH J. MALTESE, JJ.
DECISION & ORDER
from an order of the Family Court, Queens County (Anne-Marie
Jolly, J.), dated April 24, 2017. The order granted the
mother's motion, made at the conclusion of the
petitioner's case, to dismiss the petition alleging that
she neglected the subject child.
that the order is reversed, on the law, without costs or
disbursements, the mother's motion is denied, the
petition is reinstated, and the matter is remitted to the
Family Court, Queens County, for further proceedings in
petitioner commenced this proceeding pursuant to Family Court
Act article 10, alleging, inter alia, that the mother
neglected the then three-month-old subject child due to a
mental illness. At the close of the petitioner's case,
the Family Court granted the mother's motion to dismiss
the petition for failure to establish a prima facie case. The
finding of neglect may be entered in the absence of actual
harm when a preponderance of the evidence proves that the
child's "physical, mental or emotional condition...
is in imminent danger of becoming impaired as a result of the
failure of his [or her] parent... to exercise a minimum
degree of care" (Family Ct Act § 1012[f][i]).
"Moreover, a neglect finding is proper upon proof of the
causal connection between a parent's mental illness and
requisite potential harm to the child" (Matter of
Kiemiyah M. [Cassiah M.], 137 A.D.3d 1279, 1280; see
Matter of David L.S. [Caprice L.T.], 155 A.D.3d 633;
Matter of Lanijah J.L. [Omisa C.L.], 146 A.D.3d 784,
contrary to the Family Court's determination, viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the petitioner, and
affording it the benefit of every inference which could be
reasonably drawn from the evidence (see Matter of Jaivon
J. [Patricia D.], 148 A.D.3d 890, 892; Matter of
Marques B. [Eli B.], 133 A.D.3d 654, 654), the
petitioner presented a prima facie case of neglect. At the
fact-finding hearing, the petitioner introduced into evidence
a recording of two 911 calls made by the mother's
stepdaughter, in which she reported, among other things, that
the mother, while holding the child, was hitting and slapping
the mother's sister. She further stated that the mother
was manic, yelling, throwing things, and getting violent.
Additionally, the petitioner presented the testimony of the
attending psychiatrist in the emergency room at Queens
Hospital Center who, based upon his assessment of the
mother's mental condition, found that she was unable to
care for the child and ordered her admission into a
psychiatric emergency program that requires frequent
observation for at least 24 hours. The mother's hospital
records, which the petitioner also introduced into evidence,
demonstrated that the mother's mental condition, which
was described as paranoid, violent, and lacking in insight
and impulse control, had not resolved within 24 hours and
necessitated her admission into the extended observation
unit. Moreover, "[t]he absence of a diagnosed condition
does not preclude a finding of neglect" (Matter of
Danielle M., 151 A.D.2d 240, 243; see Matter of
Caress S., 250 A.D.2d 490, 490). Therefore, although the
petitioner did not show that the mother had a specific
diagnosed mental illness, the petitioner was not required to
make such a showing to avoid dismissal.
the Family Court erred in granting the mother's motion to
dismiss the petition. Since the court terminated the
proceedings at the close of the petitioner's direct case
upon an erroneous finding that a prima facie case had not
been established, a new hearing, and a new determination of
the petition, is required (see Matter of ...