Appellate court says mother did not neglect child, reverses Kings County Family Court Judge Danoff

Appellate court says mother did not neglect child, reverses Kings County Family Court Judge Danoff.

In the Matter of Crystal S., the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division: Second Judicial Department, vacated an order of disposition by Judge Susan Danoff that found that Elaine S. had neglected her child by using too much force in restraining her during an argument.

According to the appellate court’s decision, the mother and daughter gave conflicting testimony:

BODY { font-family : “Times New Roman”, Times, serif; font-size : larger; } P { line-height: 150%; text-indent: 2em }

“The Administration for Children’s Services (hereinafter ACS) commenced the instant proceeding in September 2006, alleging that the child, Crystal, age 16, was neglected by the mother and the mother’s boyfriend, who is not a party to this appeal. The petition alleged that the mother’s boyfriend slapped Crystal in the face, grabbed her by the arm, pulled her hair, and pushed her against a wall. With respect to the mother, the petition alleged that she refused to allow Crystal to return home, despite services offered by ACS.”

“At a combined fact-finding and dispositional hearing, the caseworker, who interviewed Crystal after the incident, testified that Crystal stated that when she arrived home at around midnight on September 6, 2006, her mother’s boyfriend slapped her in the face. The caseworker observed a mark, a bruise, and small swelling the size of a quarter on Crystal’s arm.”

“The mother testified that, on the day of the incident, Crystal left the house after she was specifically directed to stay home. When Crystal returned home around midnight, after her sister had located her at a friend’s house and the mother told the friend to send her home, the mother told Crystal to go to her room. Instead, Crystal screamed at the mother’s boyfriend in the kitchen, he screamed back “get out of my face,” and they physically struggled with each other. The mother testified that she saw Crystal reach for a knife, so she came between her boyfriend and Crystal and held Crystal’s arms to prevent her from reaching for the knife. The mother acknowledged that the swelling on Crystal’s arm and the scratch was probably a result of her “holding her arms to prevent her from reaching for a knife.””

Family Court Judge Danoff concluded that the child was out-of-control and consistenly disobeyed her mother, however, she also found the mother negligent because she had used too much force in restraining her daughter. Judge Danoff order the mother and child to go to family therapy and then on November 23, 2009 dismissed the neglect petition against the mother with prejudice.

When the mother appealed the finding of neglect, the attorney for the daughter argued that the mother’s appeal should be dismissed as academic.

The appellate court disagreed stating that “…the fact that the proceeding was dismissed does not mean that the finding of neglect against the mother no longer stands (see Matter of Angela D., 175 AD2d 244, 245), especially since the order dismissing the proceeding failed to vacate the neglect finding (cf. Matter of Makynli N., 17 Misc 3d 1127[A], 2007 NY Slip Op 52162[U]). Because the adjudication of neglect constitutes a permanent and significant stigma which might indirectly affect the mother’s status in any future proceedings, the appeal from so much of the order as found that the mother neglected the subject child is not academic (see Matter of Daniel W., 56 AD3d 483, 484; Matter of Derek P., 43 AD3d 938, 938-939; Matter of Sal D., 307 AD2d 261, 262; Matter of H. Children, 276 AD2d 485, 486).”

The appellate court also stated that the mother’s use of force was justified due to the escalation of the the argument when her daughter grabbed a knife.

June 5th, 2010
Topic: DCFS Tags: None

≡ Leave a Reply