In the Matter of George R. (Anonymous). SCO Family of Services, respondent, et al., petitioner; Samatha M. (Anonymous), appellant.
Geanine Towers, Brooklyn, NY, for appellant.
Carrieri & Carrieri, P.C., Mineola, NY (Ralph R. Carrieri
of counsel), for respondent.
Seymour W. James, Jr., New York, NY (Dawne Mitchell and Riti
P. Singh of counsel), attorney for the child.
C. DILLON, J.P., RUTH C. BALKIN, ROBERT J. MILLER, FRANCESCA
E. CONNOLLY, JJ.
DECISION & ORDER
proceeding pursuant to Social Services Law § 384-b, the
mother appeals from an order of fact-finding and disposition
of the Family Court, Kings County (Lillian Wan, J.), dated
November 17, 2016. The order of fact-finding and disposition,
insofar as appealed from, after fact-finding and
dispositional hearings, found that the mother permanently
neglected the subject child, terminated the mother's
parental rights, and transferred guardianship and custody of
the subject child to the petitioners for the purpose of
that the order of fact-finding and disposition is affirmed
insofar as appealed from, without costs or disbursements.
subject child was born in August 2013, and was placed in
foster care when he tested positive for benzodiazepine,
methadone, and opiates. In January 2016, the SCO Family of
Services (hereinafter the agency) and the Commissioner of
Social Services of the City of New York (hereinafter together
the petitioners) commenced this proceeding to terminate the
parental rights of the mother and the putative father. After
fact-finding and dispositional hearings, the Family Court
issued an order of fact-finding and disposition determining,
inter alia, that the mother permanently neglected the child,
terminating her parental rights, and transferring
guardianship and custody of the child to the petitioners for
the purpose of adoption. The mother appeals.
to establish that a mother permanently neglected her child,
an agency has to establish, by clear and convincing evidence,
that for a period of one year following the child's
placement with the agency, the mother failed to maintain
contact with the child or, alternatively, failed to plan for
the future of the child, although physically and financially
able to do so, notwithstanding the agency's diligent
efforts to encourage and strengthen the parent-child
relationship (see Social Services Law §
384-b, [a]). The threshold inquiry in a proceeding to
terminate parental rights generally is whether the agency
demonstrated that it exerted diligent efforts to encourage
and strengthen the parental relationship (see Social
Services Law § 384-b[a]; Matter of Hailey ZZ.
[Ricky ZZ.], 19 N.Y.3d 422, 429; Matter of Sheila
G., 61 N.Y.2d 368, 373). However, here, because the
mother failed to keep the agency apprised of her whereabouts
for at least six months, the agency was not required to prove
that it made diligent efforts (see Social Services
Law § 384-b[e][i]; Matter of Jackie Ann W.
[Leticia Ann W.], 154 A.D.3d 459, 461; Matter of
Leavon Marvin B., 60 A.D.3d 941, 942; Matter of
Brittany Noel G., 22 A.D.3d 754, 755). In any event, the
agency established by clear and convincing evidence that it
made diligent efforts to encourage and strengthen the
mother's relationship with the child. These efforts
included scheduling and supervising parental access, and
providing the mother with referrals to drug treatment
programs, parenting classes, and counseling (see Matter
of Lierre J.M. [Melissa L.D.], 150 A.D.3d 1009, 1010;
Matter of Hector V.P. [Mariana V.], 146 A.D.3d 889,
890; Matter of William Z. [Millie A.S.], 123 A.D.3d
agency demonstrated that the mother did not appear for
scheduled parental access with the child for approximately
one year. There is no basis to disturb the Family Court's
finding that the mother's explanation for her failure to
appear was not credible (see Matter of Breana R.S.
[Triana B.-S.], 148 A.D.3d 1157, 1158; Matter of
Derrick D.A. [Shavonna L.L.D.], 134 A.D.3d 928, 929).
Accordingly, the mother's failure to maintain contact
with the child was sufficient to support a finding of
permanent neglect (see Matter of Karina J.M. [Carmen Enid
G.], 145 A.D.3d 893, 895; Matter of Jayden Isaiah O.
[Rossely R.-O.], 144 A.D.3d 465, 465; Matter of
Jonathan Jose T., 44 A.D.3d 508, 509; Matter of
Emily A., 216 A.D.2d 124, 124-125).
Family Court also properly determined that it was in the
child's best interests to terminate the mother's
parental rights, rather than to enter a suspended judgment,
and to free the child for adoption (see Family Ct
Act § 631; Matter of Nay'amya W.R. [Kiara
D.],135 A.D.3d 770, 771; Matter of Aleeyah T.M.