In re Joshua F.

CourtNew York Family Court
Writing for the CourtJacqueline B. Deane, J.
Citation2021 NY Slip Op 21373
PartiesIn the Matter of Joshua F. Kanan O. Children Under Eighteen Years of Age Alleged to be Neglected by Hollyann G., Respondent
Decision Date20 December 2021

2021 NY Slip Op 21373

In the Matter of Joshua F. Kanan O. Children Under Eighteen Years of Age Alleged to be Neglected by Hollyann G., Respondent

Family Court, Kings County

December 20, 2021


Darya Olshanetskaya, Esq.

Administration for Children's Services

Family Court Legal Services

For the Petitioner

Winsome Rhudd, Esq.

Brooklyn, New York

For the Respondent Mother, Ms. G

Aurora Curtis, Esq.

Legal Aid Society

Juvenile Rights Practice For the Subject Children

Mahari Simmonds, Esq.

Brooklyn Defender Services

Family Defense Practice

For the Father Mr. F

Jennifer Marshall, Esq.

Brooklyn, New York

For the Father Mr. O

Jacqueline B. Deane, J.

Procedural History and Factual Background

This Court held a fact-finding hearing pursuant to Family Court Act §1044 in this child neglect proceeding against the Respondent mother, Ms. G, over the course of several dates, from April 12, 2021 until November 9, 2021. [1]

At the fact-finding hearing, the Petitioner Administration for Children's Services ("Petitioner" or "ACS") called ACS caseworker Ms. Ramjit, and Mr. O, the non-respondent father of the older subject child Kanan, as witnesses. The Respondent called her mother as a witness and testified on her own behalf. The Attorney for the Children ("AFC") did not present any case and argued in favor of a finding of neglect. The Court reserved decision.

ACS originally filed this petition on October 23, 2019. Prior to that date, the two young subject children, Kanan (age 2 at the time) and Joshua (age 9 months), had resided either fully or partially in their mother's care. Ms. G was originally a non-respondent on an earlier neglect petition filed against Joshua's father, Mr. F, on July 26, 2019 which involved allegations of domestic violence against her, specifically that Mr. F punched her in the presence of both small children. At that time, Joshua was released to his mother and Kanan jointly to both of his parents as Ms. G and Mr. O had a previously-entered order of joint custody that allowed each approximately half of the week with him. On October 18, 2021, this Court made a neglect finding against Mr. F based on the evidence of domestic violence presented by ACS at trial which included the emotional, compelling and highly credible testimony of Ms. G who was cooperative in ACS's calling her as a witness. See Order of Fact-Finding, NN-20753-4/19, dated October 18, 2021.

The petition filed against Ms. G alleges neglect based on Ms. G's failure to provide adequate supervision or guardianship. Specifically, the petition alleges that she left Kanan with his father from early September to the date of filing without having any contact with the father or the child and that she left Joshua with his paternal grandmother for approximately the same amount of time also without any contact or provisions until October 2, 2019, when she apologized for disappearing but still did not take Joshua back. Additionally, the petition alleges that the caseworker had been trying to assist the mother with entering PATH in mid-September but was not able to make contact with her by phone.

Ms. G gave birth to a third son, Julian, on April 30, 2021 and ACS filed another petition against both Ms. G and the baby's father, Mr. F, adding Julian as a subject child on July 15th. Julian is temporarily directly placed with his maternal grandmother with an order that allows the mother to live in the same home and she is currently permitted to be with Julian unsupervised.

Evidence at Fact-finding Hearing

Kanan's father, Mr. O, testified that during his regular parenting time over Labor Day weekend in 2019, he was stabbed and hospitalized for approximately six weeks. He stated that Kanan was with his grandmother from the time this incident happened and that Ms. G did not pick Kanan up as per her regular schedule on Thursday, September 5th. Mr. O spoke to Ms. G from the hospital several times and she stated she planned to enter a family shelter and would pick Kanan up before doing so. However, Mr. O did not hear from the mother again until October and Kanan remained in the care of his family, or with him once he was out of the hospital, during the period alleged in the petition. Mr. O acknowledged that Ms. G did not have his grandmother's phone number or know where she lived and he did not provide it to her, although she did have his aunt's number who lived in the same home. Mr. O also testified that, while Ms. G did not visit him in the hospital, Ms. G's mother did. He stated that he spoke to Ms. G three to four times while he was in the hospital but that, to his knowledge, she did not speak to Kanan.

Caseworker Ramjit's testimony focused on her efforts to assist Ms. G in entering PATH to obtain a shelter placement with the two children as she was aware that Ms. G was a victim of domestic violence by Mr. F and had unstable housing because her mother had "kicked her out" in August. Ms. Ramjit originally messaged Ms. G about entering PATH on September 5, 2019 and then made a specific plan to meet her on September 13th and then pick up the boys to go to PATH. However, when Caseworker Ramjit arrived at the address that the mother had provided, Ms. G was not there and did not respond to texts. The caseworker testified that she tried to reach Ms. G over the next several weeks to make another plan but was unable to reach her until October 22nd. During this period of no contact, each child was with their paternal relatives and the caseworker did not raise any concerns about the care the children received from them. Once Caseworker Ramjit reached the mother, Ms. G explained that she had been working over that time to raise money to care for her children and that she had tried to see Joshua while he was with his paternal grandmother but that Mr. F's family would not let her see him. Ms. G also stated that she had given Joshua's benefit card to his paternal grandmother, who had agreed to care for Joshua, so that she could purchase food and other necessities for him. The caseworker testified that Kanan was with his paternal great-grandmother as Mr. O was in the hospital most of that time. As far as Ms. Ramjit was aware, Ms. G did not see either child during that time.

The maternal grandmother, Martha G, testified that, during the time Mr. O was hospitalized, she had "thrown out" her daughter from the home because she "wanted to teach her a lesson" and get her to grow up because she was choosing the wrong men. In particular, Ms. G felt that her daughter's current partner, Mr. F, had nothing to offer her as he had no job and was beating the Respondent mother up on a regular basis. The grandmother testified credibly that, while they were living together, she would see her daughter crying and with black eyes. On one occasion, she was awakened to the sound of her daughter screaming and crying and saw Mr. F chasing her into her bedroom. Additionally, Martha G stated that Mr. F would call her on the phone and threaten both her and her daughter, calling her daughter "bitch" and "whore." The grandmother believed her daughter kept going back to Mr. F because she was afraid of him. Although she kicked her daughter out, Ms. G stayed in touch with her and she went to see Mr. O in the hospital on her daughter's behalf. She also testified that she made arrangements to see Kanan through his great-grandmother and that her daughter would come see Kanan while he was in her care and bring him some food and clothes. At one point, her daughter did say she planned to enter a shelter.

Ms. G testified openly and honestly and the Court was impressed by her level of insight and display of vulnerability. Ms. G said she was 19 years old when she got involved with Mr. F and that he had been extremely nice to her in the beginning of their relationship as was his family. She explained that she was looking for a family and that was part of her motivation to be with him. While there were red flags early in her relationship with Mr. F, she did not have a support system and he told her he never loved anyone as much as her. Ms. G testified emotionally about the abuse she suffered over the course of their relationship which began with Mr. F's attempts to control her clothes, looks and behavior and to hurt her emotionally by placing humiliating and demeaning posts on social media. The next year he began beating her regularly with a belt and sticks. Prior to her relationship with Mr. F, Ms. G testified that she had been involved with Mr. O when she was only 18 and he was 25. She stated that there was also a dynamic of power and control used against her in that relationship as well. Mr. O was verbally abusive and wanted her to remain home and cook and clean and only leave the house for school.

During the period relevant to the allegations, Ms. G explained that she was...

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