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Home / Case Digests / Appellate Division, Third Dept. / Family Law: Matter of Tatianna K.

Family Law: Matter of Tatianna K.

Appellate Division, Third Department

Family Law

Neglect — Termination

Matter of Tatianna K.
Appealed from Family Court, Otsego County

Background: Respondents are the parents of Tatianna K. who was born in 2006. After family court found that the parents had neglected the child, they separated and, in August 2007, the child was placed in foster care.  While respondent mother Jolene V. then had intermittent contact with the child and she eventually disengaged from all services, respondent father Claude U. began to stabilize his life and to address the problems that led to the removal of the child.
In January 2009, however, petitioner commenced this proceeding against both parents seeking a determination of permanent neglect and termination of parental rights. Following a fact-finding hearing at which the mother did not appear, family court adjudicated the child to be permanently neglected by both parents. The father now appeals, contending that petitioner neither exercised diligent efforts to reunite him with the child nor proved by clear and convincing evidence that he failed to plan for the child’s future.

Ruling: Although the petitioning agency offered adequate services to facilitate reuniting the parties, the court finds that there is merit in the father’s contention that petitioner failed to establish that he did not substantially plan for the future of the child. A parent plans for the future by utilizing available medical, social and psychological services as needed and providing a stable and adequate home environment. The standards to evaluate whether a parent has met the requirement to “substantially plan” should not be set “unrealistically high.”
To the extent that the court disregarded the meaningful, if belated, steps taken by the father after the expiration of the one-year period and characterized them as “belated,” the court notes that family court is obliged to consider the conduct and commitment of the parent during the interim between the end of the one-year period and the commencement of the proceeding.
Based upon its review of the record of the father’s accomplishments following his separation from the mother, including the uncontested bond he had formed with the child, the court panel concludes that petitioner failed to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that the father permanently neglected the child within the meaning of Social Services Law §384-b(7)(a). The family court order is thus modified by dismissing the petition for termination as against the father.

Monica Carrascoso for the appellant; Steven Ratner, of the Otsego County Department of Social Services, for the respondent; and Kelly M. Eckmair, attorney for the child