In the Matter of KRISTINA S. and Others, Alleged to be Abused and/or Neglected Children. CHEMUNG COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, Respondent; MICHAEL S., Appellant.
Calendar Date: February 22, 2018
B. Bleiwas, Ithaca, for appellant.
Crary Myers, Chemung County Department of Social Services,
Elmira, for respondent.
B. McNeil, Ithaca, attorney for the children.
Before: Garry, P.J., McCarthy, Devine, Mulvey and Rumsey, JJ.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
from an order of the Family Court of Chemung County (Hayden,
J.), entered May 12, 2016, which granted petitioner's
application, in a proceeding pursuant to Family Ct Act
article 10, to adjudicate the subject children to be abused
April 2014, petitioner commenced this proceeding alleging
that respondent had abused and/or neglected his four
and his niece, for whose care he was responsible. Among other
things, petitioner alleged that respondent had sexually
abused his two oldest daughters and his niece. At the
fact-finding hearing held in February 2016, the primary
evidence of abuse and neglect consisted of out-of-court
statements made by these three girls, specifically, written
statements that each had separately provided to police
officers and video recordings of interviews of each child
that were conducted by police officers. Following the
fact-finding hearing, Family Court found that respondent had
abused and/or neglected all five children. After a
dispositional hearing that was held in March 2016, the court
entered an order placing respondent under petitioner's
supervision for one year and entered an order of protection
requiring respondent to stay away from the children for one
year. Respondent appeals.
only argument that respondent raises on appeal is that the
out-of-court statements made by the two oldest daughters and
the niece were not sufficiently corroborated.
"[P]revious statements made by [a] child relating to
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 Jakob Z. [Matthew Z.-Mare
AA.], 156 A.D.3d 1170, 1171  [internal quotation
marks and citations omitted]).
Court's determination that the out-of-court statements
were sufficiently corroborated is supported by a sound and
substantial basis in the record. The two daughters at issue
and the niece each testified, under oath, at the fact-finding
hearing that all of the allegations made in their respective
written statements and recorded interviews were true, and
each was subject to cross-examination (see Matter of
Christina F., 74 N.Y.2d 532, 537 ). The video
recordings of the interviews were viewed at the fact-finding
hearing, allowing Family Court to evaluate the three
girls' demeanor as each spoke about the incidents of
abuse by respondent, and it found that the younger daughter
and the niece were compelling witnesses who presented
authentic and credible accounts of their experiences (see
id.; Matter of Ian H., 42 A.D.3d 701, 703
, lv denied 9 N.Y.3d 814');">9 N.Y.3d 814 ). The
independent statements made by the younger daughter and the
niece are further corroborated by the fact that they contain
consistent details regarding the same incidents (see
Matter of Dylan R. [Jeremy T.], 137 A.D.3d 1492, 1494
, lv denied 27 N.Y.3d 912');">27 N.Y.3d 912 ; Matter
of Ian H., 42 A.D.3d at 703). Finally, testimony of
adult witnesses confirmed information contained in the three
girls' accounts, for example, the name of
respondent's friend, whom the girls said interrupted one
incident of abuse when he made an unplanned visit to their
home. Further, respondent's paramour, who shared a home
with respondent and all five children, confirmed that she was
absent from the home and hospitalized during the time period
when one of the incidents of abuse occurred.
P.J., McCarthy, Devine and ...