Friday, January 25, 2013

NY state appellate court rules that children can't be taken from parents just because house is messy

The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, First Division, ruled yesterday that child protective services cannot take children from their parents solely on the basis of a messy or cluttered house. In the Matter of Iyanah D., the court overturned a New York City Family Court ruling by Judge Jody Adams that had determined the children had been neglected.

The appellate court stated in its decision:

"Family Court's finding of neglect was based solely on the condition, observed on one particular day, of the apartment where respondent father and Iyanah resided. The court adopted petitioner's allegation that the subject apartment's living room was cluttered with plastic bags containing clothes and home appliances, there were unwashed dishes in the kitchen, and an odor was emanating from dirty cat litter, and concluded by a preponderance of the evidence that this constituted neglect. Specifically, the court determined, without analysis, that these seemingly unsanitary conditions of the home posed an imminent danger to Iyanah. We recognize that although there may have been a lengthy history with respondent's family and the court, based on the sparse record before us, the unsanitary condition of the apartment, standing alone, was insufficient as a matter of law to find neglect. While the condition of the apartment was hardly ideal, it did not place the child's physical, mental or emotional state in imminent danger of impairment."

New York City's Administration for Child Services (ACS) admitted that it did not inspect the bedroom where Iyanah slept, nor did it remove Iyanah from the apartment until more than two weeks later.

The father explained to the ACS child protective services caseworker that the plastic bags of clothes and appliances were there because the family was getting ready to move. According to the appellate court's decision, the caseworker never attempted to confirm the father's explanation nor make a follow-up visit.

The father was charged with derivatively neglecting his other daughter, but ACS did not make that charge of neglect until a year later. The appellate court dismissed all charges of neglect.

Copyright 2009 Daniel Weaver. Permission to republish the first two paragraphs of this article is granted, as long as a link to the entire article is provided. The article cannot be republished in its entirety on any website, including blogs.

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