Ted J. Stein, Woodstock, for appellant. Heather D. Harp, Ulster County Department of Social Services, Kingston, for respondent. Marian Cocose, Bearsville, attorney for the children. Daniel Gartenstein, Kingston, attorney for the child.
Ted J. Stein, Woodstock, for appellant.
Heather D. Harp, Ulster County Department of Social Services, Kingston, for respondent.
Marian Cocose, Bearsville, attorney for the children.
Daniel Gartenstein, Kingston, attorney for the child.
Before: PETERS, P.J., LAHTINEN, GARRY, ROSE and LYNCH, JJ.
ROSE, J.Appeals from two orders of the Family Court of Ulster County (Mizel, J.), entered April 10, 2013 and April 11, 2013, which granted petitioner's applications, in two proceedings pursuant to Social Services Law § 384–b, to adjudicate the subject children to be permanently neglected, and terminated respondent's parental rights.
Respondent is the mother of Brandon EE., Nigal FF. and Destiny EE. (born in 1997, 2000 and 2003, respectively). Brandon and Nigal were first determined to be neglected and were placed in petitioner's care in 2001, based on a finding that Nigal's father had sexually abused Brandon. Although respondent regained custody in 2003, in 2007 she consented to findings of neglect and placement of all three children with petitioner after she allowed Nigal to travel out-of-state to spend the summer with his father. Petitioner commenced these proceedings in 2009 alleging that Nigal and Destiny (hereinafter the children) were permanently neglected and seeking to terminate respondent's parental rights. After lengthy fact-finding and dispositional hearings, Family Court granted the petitions. Respondent appeals, primarily contending that petitioner failed to exercise diligent efforts to reunite her with the children.
We affirmed an order extending the placement of the children that changed the permanency goal from “return to parent” to “placement for adoption” (Matter of Destiny EE. [Karen FF.], 82 A.D.3d 1292  ).
We affirmed the denial of respondent's motion to vacate the 2007 neglect findings and dismiss the petitions for permanent neglect (Matter of Destiny EE. [Karen FF.], 90 A.D.3d 1437 , lv. dismissed 19 N.Y.3d 856, 946 N.Y.S.2d 561, 969 N.E.2d 780  ).
A separate proceeding was brought with respect to Brandon. Although he was determined to be permanently neglected, a suspended judgment was entered on consent and he was returned to respondent's custody. That disposition is not before us.
As relevant here, in order to establish permanent neglect, petitioner was required to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that “it made diligent efforts to strengthen the parent-child relationship and that, despite those efforts, the parent has failed to ... substantially plan for the child[ren]'s future for one year after the agency has been charged with the child[ren]'s care” (Matter of Tatianna K. [Claude U.], 79 A.D.3d 1184, 1185, 912 N.Y.S.2d 166  ; accord Matter of Summer G. [Amy F.], 93 A.D.3d 959, 960, 939 N.Y.S.2d 663  ; see Social Services Law § 384–b [7 ][a] ). Diligent efforts include, among other things, “creating a service plan that offers appropriate services to the parents to resolve the problems preventing return of the child[ren], making suitable arrangements for visitation and advising the parent of the child[ren]'s progress” (Matter of Tatianna K. [Claude U.], 79 A.D.3d at 1185, 912 N.Y.S.2d 166 ).
Here, respondent lost custody of the children as a result of her inability to recognize the danger posed by Nigal's father, and the main impediments to her ability to regain custody were identified as her failure to acknowledge what had occurred to Brandon, her inability to understand and address the children's resulting issues and her lack of suitable housing and employment. Our review of the record reveals ample support for the conclusion that petitioner fulfilled its obligation to engage in diligent efforts to reunite respondent with the children (see Matter of Arianna I. [Roger I.], 100 A.D.3d 1281, 1283, 955 N.Y.S.2d 413  ; Matter of Neal TT. [Deborah UU.], 97 A.D.3d 869, 870, 948 N.Y.S.2d 184  ; Matter of Mary MM. [Leuetta NN.], 72 A.D.3d 1427, 1428, 899 N.Y.S.2d 483 , lv. denied 15 N.Y.3d 703, 2010 WL 2606066  ). Petitioner regularly advised respondent of the necessary steps to have the children returned to her via weekly in-person counseling, monthly letters updating her on the children's progress and interactive service plan review meetings. Respondent's caseworkers provided referrals to appropriate service providers, including mental health services and housing and employment agencies that were capable of meeting respondent's specific needs. Petitioner also facilitated meaningful visitation by scheduling and supervising 150 visits with the children. Further, respondent was provided with advice on how to plan for the visits, was counseled during the visits and received tips following visits for making them more effective. Although there were, at times, a lack of coordination and inconsistent communication from petitioner and its service provider, particularly with respect to whether respondent's out-of-state aunt was an appropriate placement option for the children, Family Court appropriately attributed these isolated incidents to the length of time that the children had spent in petitioner's care, the myriad issues that needed to be addressed and the turnover that occurred in personnel working with petitioner to achieve the stated goals. Respondent's failure to follow through on the recommended services and to consistently address the issues preventing the return of the children does not reflect a lack of diligent efforts (see Matter of Kayden E. [Luis E.], 111 A.D.3d 1094, 1097, 975 N.Y.S.2d 789 , lv. denied 22 N.Y.3d 862, 2014 WL 702010  ; Matter of Neal TT. [Deborah UU.], 97 A.D.3d at 870–871, 948 N.Y.S.2d 184 ; Matter of Telsa Z. [Denise Z.], 90 A.D.3d 1193, 1195, 934 N.Y.S.2d 574 , lv. denied 18 N.Y.3d 806, 2012 WL 446103  ).
The record also supports Family Court's conclusion that respondent failed to adequately plan for the children's future. Although respondent regularly exercised her visitation, underwent some counseling and took some parenting classes, she otherwise failed to pursue the services offered to her. Respondent remained inconsistent in her recognition of the abuse perpetrated against Brandon, made minimal effort in seeking a job, did not enroll in recommended therapy programs and, based on her inability to adequately address the children's issues, was unable to progress beyond supervised visits with them. Accordingly, the record establishes that she made little or no progress in addressing the issues that prevented the children's return (see Matter of Alister UU. [Angela VV.], 117 A.D.3d 1137, 1138–1139, 984 N.Y.S.2d 649  ; Matter of Ronnie P. [Danielle Q.], 77 A.D.3d 1094, 1096–1097, 909 N.Y.S.2d 775  ; Matter of Maelee N., 48 A.D.3d 929, 930, 851 N.Y.S.2d 701 , lv. denied 10 N.Y.3d 709, 859 N.Y.S.2d 394, 889 N.E.2d 81  ). Inasmuch as the children have made considerable improvement in foster care and have bonded with their foster family, who have expressed a desire to adopt the children, there is a sound and substantial basis in the record supporting Family Court's determination that termination of respondent's parental rights was in the children's best interests (see Matter of Neal TT. [Deborah UU.], 97 A.D.3d at 871–872, 948 N.Y.S.2d 184 ; Matter of Summer G. [Amy F.], 93 A.D.3d at 962, 939 N.Y.S.2d 663 ; Matter of Mary MM. [Leuetta NN.], 72 A.D.3d at 1429, 899 N.Y.S.2d 483 ).
ORDERED that the orders are affirmed, without costs.
PETERS, P.J., LAHTINEN, GARRY and LYNCH, JJ., concur.