Rivera v. Marcus, No. 189

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtMESKILL; Zampano; Zampano; IRVING R. KAUFMAN
Citation696 F.2d 1016
Decision Date23 December 1982
Docket NumberD,No. 189
PartiesDorothy RIVERA, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Marc MARCUS, Commissioner of Children and Youth Services of the State of Connecticut and John F. Harder, Acting Commissioner, State Welfare Department, Defendants, Marc Marcus, Commissioner of the Department of Children and Youth Services, Defendant-Appellant. ocket 82-7311.

Page 1016

696 F.2d 1016
Dorothy RIVERA, individually and on behalf of all others
similarly situated, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Marc MARCUS, Commissioner of Children and Youth Services of
the State of Connecticut and John F. Harder,
Acting Commissioner, State Welfare
Department, Defendants,
Marc Marcus, Commissioner of the Department of Children and
Youth Services, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 189, Docket 82-7311.
United States Court of Appeals,
Second Circuit.
Argued Oct. 14, 1982.
Decided Dec. 23, 1982.

Robert A. Nagy, Asst. Atty. Gen., State of Conn., Hartford, Conn. (Carl R. Ajello, Atty. Gen., State of Conn., Hartford, Conn., of counsel), for defendant-appellant.

Deborah S. Freeman, Connecticut Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Hartford, Conn. (Sue Ann Shay, Neighborhood Legal Services, Hartford, Conn., of counsel), for plaintiff-appellee.

Patrick Malone, Yale Law School, New Haven, Conn. (Stephen Wizner, P.J. Pittman, John L. Pottenger, Jr., Mary McCarthy,

Page 1017

Jerome N. Frank, Legal Services Organization, Susan Casey, Yale Law School, New Haven, Conn., of counsel), court-appointed counsel for the minor children.

Before KAUFMAN, MESKILL and FAIRCHILD, * Circuit Judges.

MESKILL, Circuit Judge:

We are asked in this appeal to determine whether the procedures used by the State of Connecticut to remove children from foster homes comport with due process. The district court found that the appellee, Mrs. Dorothy Rivera, who was both custodial relative and foster parent to the two children living in her home, should have been provided with greater due process protections when the state removed these children. We affirm.

I. Background

Most state administrators and jurists are reluctant to order a child removed from the family home. Court decisions reflect this general sentiment, which is premised on our strong national tradition supporting the integrity and independence of the family unit. See Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651, 92 S.Ct. 1208, 1212, 31 L.Ed.2d 551 (1972); see also Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 231-32, 92 S.Ct. 1526, 1541, 32 L.Ed.2d 15 (1972); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 399-400, 43 S.Ct. 625, 626-627, 67 L.Ed. 1042 (1923). Unfortunately in some situations there are instances of serious parental neglect or physical abuse requiring the state to intervene to protect the best interests of the child.

The decision to remove a sibling from the family home is always serious and the resulting disruptions can often be traumatic for both parent and child. The courts have recognized the grave nature of this decision and have consistently ordered that natural parents be afforded due process protection to ensure that a child is not removed without good cause. See Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. at 651, 92 S.Ct. at 1212. See generally Santosky v. Kramer, --- U.S. ----, ----, 102 S.Ct. 1388, 1393, 71 L.Ed.2d 599 (1982); Lassiter v. Department of Social Services, 452 U.S. 18, 24-32, 101 S.Ct. 2153, 2158-2162, 68 L.Ed.2d 640 (1981). We are less certain whether these procedural protections should extend to foster parents. Although foster parents often provide the same care, love and support expected of natural or adoptive parents, the foster relationship is frequently of shorter duration and is carefully circumscribed by a contract which typically authorizes the state to remove a child from the foster home at any time.

This appeal presents claims that do not fit neatly into the bodies of law governing the rights of either foster or natural parents. Indeed, the parental status of the appellee Dorothy Rivera can be characterized most accurately as hybrid: she is the adult half-sister of Esther Jean Ross and Edwin Ross and was principally responsible for the care and upbringing of the Ross children until the State of Connecticut interceded in 1974. From this perspective, she more closely resembles a natural parent. However, Dorothy Rivera was also a foster parent to the Ross children by virtue of a contract she signed with the State of Connecticut in 1972. The issue presented on appeal is whether a custodial half-sister who also happens to be a foster parent should be treated for purposes of procedural due process as a natural parent or a foster parent. We begin our analysis by reviewing the evolution of the kindred relationship between Mrs. Rivera and the two Ross children.

A. Family Relationship

In 1968, Betty Jean Ross and her infant daughter Esther Jean moved from Virginia to live with Mrs. Rivera in Hartford. In 1970, Betty Jean gave birth to another child, Edwin Ross. Mrs. Ross and her two children continued to live with Mrs. Rivera

Page 1018

throughout this period. Mrs. Rivera is related biologically to the Ross children because they share the same father. She is, however, much older than her half-brother and sister.

Betty Jean Ross experienced psychological problems rendering her unable to care fully for the needs of her children well before she moved into the Rivera home. Mrs. Rivera stepped into this parental void almost from the moment the Ross children entered her home. The record suggests that she performed her duties as "surrogate mother" capably and with affection. The record also indicates that Mrs. Ross specifically asked Dorothy Rivera to care for her children and was amenable to the delegation of responsibilities in this extended family.

In 1972, Betty Jean Ross was committed to an institution due to her deteriorating mental condition. The Juvenile Court of the State of Connecticut assumed jurisdiction and ordered legal custody of the Ross children transferred to the State Welfare Department. Mrs. Rivera was not notified of the pendency of this Juvenile Court proceeding and was not present when the state assumed legal responsibility for the Ross children.

Representatives of the Connecticut Welfare Department subsequently asked Mrs. Rivera whether she would be interested in serving as a foster parent for the children. Mrs. Rivera agreed to this arrangement and the foster contract was signed on January 14, 1974. Under its terms, Dorothy Rivera agreed to provide familial care and services in exchange for monthly compensation from the state. 1 The Welfare Department expressly reserved in the agreement the right to remove the children from the Rivera foster home at any time. See J.App. at 52-53. 2

On November 14, 1974, the Connecticut Welfare Department notified Mrs. Rivera that the state had decided to exercise its right to remove the Ross children. At this point, Esther Jean and Edwin Ross had been living continuously with Mrs. Rivera for approximately six years. 3 Before removing the children, the State Welfare Department informed Mrs. Rivera that she was entitled to an "Administrative Case Review" (ACR) if she wished to contest the decision of the state agency. Mrs. Rivera indicated that she did wish to challenge the removal decision and asked that her attorney be present. This request was denied pursuant to the regulations adopted by the Commissioner of the State Welfare Department. See J.App. at 48. 4

The ACR hearing was held on December 16, 1974. The three person panel decided without explanation that the Ross children should be removed from the Rivera home. Two days later the children were removed and were subsequently placed in another foster home where they presently reside. 5 Mrs. Rivera has neither been permitted to communicate with her half-brother and sister, nor been informed of the location or identity of the new foster parents.

Page 1019

B. Administrative Case Review Procedures

To decide this appeal, which focuses on the procedures used by the State of Connecticut to determine when a child should be removed from a foster home, it is necessary to review carefully the general policies and specific administrative regulations governing this process.

In 1972, the Connecticut Welfare Commissioner developed and implemented an "Administrative Case Review Demonstration Project." See J.App. at 46. The purpose of this project, as explained in the preface to the regulations, "was to assure that those children under the supervision of the Commissioner of Welfare are not removed from an approved foster home unless it is clearly in the best interests of those children." Id. Consistent with this policy, the ACR regulations provide a detailed, albeit informal, set of procedures ostensibly designed to encourage reasoned decisionmaking.

ACR regulations provide that any foster parent can contest the decision of the Welfare Department to remove a foster child if that foster parent believes removal is not in the child's best interest. At the administrative hearing, the Welfare Department is represented both by the social worker responsible for the foster child and either a department supervisor or program supervisor. Id. The hearing panel is comprised of three individuals: a district office social worker; a trained social worker from a private casework agency; and a representative from the Welfare Department's "Central Office" who possesses a Master of Social Work degree and who has experience in the child welfare field. The Connecticut Child Advocacy Center represents the interests of the foster child during this proceeding.

The rights of the foster parent during the administrative proceeding are carefully circumscribed by state regulation. The foster parent is neither permitted to bring legal counsel to the hearing nor to confront and cross-examine any adverse witnesses. There is no guarantee of the right to be heard by an impartial tribunal. Moreover, the decision of the three person panel is not appealable, although it may be overruled by the unilateral decision of the Commissioner. See id. at 47. ACR regulations do not require that the panel's decision be reported in writing or otherwise explained to the foster parent. 6

C. Federal Court Action

Mrs. Rivera commenced a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 (1976) after receiving the hearing panel's...

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71 practice notes
  • HOOTSTEIN v. Collins, No. 08-CV-30113-MAP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • January 14, 2010
    ...or a case in which the courthouse doors were closed to them when they wanted to intervene in the process. Cf. Rivera v. Marcus, 696 F.2d 1016 (2d Cir. 1982) (holding that Plaintiff, who provided foster care for her half brother and sister, had liberty interest in preserving familial relatio......
  • Rees v. Office of Children, Case No. 1:09–cv–283.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • September 30, 2010
    ...The Second Circuit recognized a constitutionally protected liberty interest on the part of a biological relative in Rivera v. Marcus, 696 F.2d 1016 (2d Cir.1982), where the plaintiff was a half-sister to the children in question and had assumed care for them in her own home at the request o......
  • Bloomingburg Jewish Educ. Ctr. v. Vill. of Bloomingburg, No. 14–cv–7250 (KBF).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • June 9, 2015
    ...sense; and (b) the procedures used by the state to effect this deprivation were constitutionally inadequate." Rivera v. Marcus, 696 F.2d 1016, 1022 (2d Cir.1982) (citations omitted). "Substantive due process requires only that economic legislation be supported by a legitimate legislative pu......
  • People United for Children v. City of New York, No. 99 Civ. 0648(RJW).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • July 18, 2000
    ...of Foster Families for Equality & Reform, 431 U.S. 816, 847, 97 S.Ct. 2094, 53 L.Ed.2d 14 (1977) ("OFFER"); Rivera v. Marcus, 696 F.2d 1016, 1022 (2d Cir.1982); Yuan, 48 F.Supp.2d at 344. As discussed above, it is clear that plaintiffs have asserted a liberty interest which receives Fourtee......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
72 cases
  • HOOTSTEIN v. Collins, No. 08-CV-30113-MAP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • January 14, 2010
    ...or a case in which the courthouse doors were closed to them when they wanted to intervene in the process. Cf. Rivera v. Marcus, 696 F.2d 1016 (2d Cir. 1982) (holding that Plaintiff, who provided foster care for her half brother and sister, had liberty interest in preserving familial relatio......
  • Rees v. Office of Children, Case No. 1:09–cv–283.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • September 30, 2010
    ...The Second Circuit recognized a constitutionally protected liberty interest on the part of a biological relative in Rivera v. Marcus, 696 F.2d 1016 (2d Cir.1982), where the plaintiff was a half-sister to the children in question and had assumed care for them in her own home at the request o......
  • Bloomingburg Jewish Educ. Ctr. v. Vill. of Bloomingburg, No. 14–cv–7250 (KBF).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • June 9, 2015
    ...sense; and (b) the procedures used by the state to effect this deprivation were constitutionally inadequate." Rivera v. Marcus, 696 F.2d 1016, 1022 (2d Cir.1982) (citations omitted). "Substantive due process requires only that economic legislation be supported by a legitimate legislative pu......
  • People United for Children v. City of New York, No. 99 Civ. 0648(RJW).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • July 18, 2000
    ...of Foster Families for Equality & Reform, 431 U.S. 816, 847, 97 S.Ct. 2094, 53 L.Ed.2d 14 (1977) ("OFFER"); Rivera v. Marcus, 696 F.2d 1016, 1022 (2d Cir.1982); Yuan, 48 F.Supp.2d at 344. As discussed above, it is clear that plaintiffs have asserted a liberty interest which receives Fourtee......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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