Part II


Court Involvement

Because of the safety concerns, the worker checked with a legal consultant in the agency and was told to prepare a complete W865d. Once this was reviewed, it was decided there were sufficient grounds for a neglect petition (Article 10) against Mr. M. The worker completed a COI (Court Ordered Investigation) and the court date was scheduled for 7/20. At the initial hearing Ms M. was assigned an 18B lawyer, and the case was adjourned for a week.

Mr. M. refused to attend either court hearing. When he talked with the worker, he said a friend who works for ACS told him there was something wrong with this hearing. “What is this court date about?” When the worker explained the hearing involves the safety concerns ACS has about his children, he responded: “I know my wife must have reported that while we were on vacation, I hit my kids. She’s angry and reported that I hit them in the US because she wants me arrested.” When the worker asked if he could explain what happened, he said, “We went on vacation and she disrespected me by going on a date with another man… I was fighting with my wife and I took off my belt and hit my kids. I know I hit them, but I don’t abuse my kids.” The worker told him it was in his best interest to go to the court hearing. She also informed him that an Order of Protection has been issued, which means he must not contact them, go to their residence or the children’s school. He is to make no contact and is to stay away from them.

At the 856 hearing on 7/20, the children were paroled to their mother on condition of weekly ACS supervision with announced and unannounced visits. Respondent father was to have supervised visitation with the children upon consent of the law guardian. And children were to be evaluated, especially for play therapy. (The children did not want to see their father at this time, but it was hoped they would be able to move beyond this incident once they were enrolled in therapy).

At the Article 10 hearing on 8/8, the earlier orders were continued. No decision was made because Mr. M. did not have an attorney; and the judge said he could not have a court-appointed lawyer because of his income. The hearing was continued until 8/20. When he appeared at this hearing, Mr. M. still did not have an attorney. The judge informed him if he appeared again without a lawyer, he would have to represent himself.

Ongoing Contacts

During the approximate 6 weeks after the initial investigation, the CPS worker had 3 visits with the family, made 3 additional unannounced evening visits but no one was home, and had numerous telephone conversations with Ms. M. and related others. The worker’s supervisors reviewed her activities several times during this time. She also tried to arrange an Elevated Risk conference with a child evaluation specialist (CES). This conference was never held because the CES worker was unable to work out a time with Ms. M. due to her work schedule and child care issues.

During this same period the CPS worker received at least 7 calls from Ms. M. Her calls involved checking on the phone number of the law guardian assigned to the children, requesting help with the children’s day care fees because she wasn’t sure her husband would pay, and reports of a couple of text messages she received from her husband. Also, since the department had provided mattresses and bunk beds for the children, several of her calls related to the fact that her daughter had a severe allergic reaction to the bed bugs in the new mattress. (The worker eventually arranged for replacement mattresses).

The worker’s calls and visits were focused primarily on the children’s welfare and response to the domestic violence incident. She also followed up to make sure Ms. M. had contacted the domestic violence program to which she had been referred. During her visit on 8/3 she talked with the children and then asked them to go play in their room. When the worker commented that Ms. M. must be concerned her husband was not following the Order of Protection, Thomas ran into the room and turned the TV up loud. When the worker asked why he had done this, he ran to his mother and put his head on the couch. His mother said that whenever his sister mentions daddy, he says “no more daddy” and turns the TV up loud.

The worker made a visit to the children’s day care program to discuss the children’s progress. She was told that there had been no real change in the children’s behavior. When she learned that Ms. M. had only given a copy of the Order of Protection to the head teacher, she said that each teacher should have a copy and called Ms. M. to remind her she must give each person a copy in order to protect the children.

On 8/17 the worker met with the family and the children’s maternal grandmother (whom Ms. M. had named as her main support) at the day care center. During that meeting Ms. M. said she wanted to look for a new apartment. She was very nervous about staying in her current home. Ms. M. told the worker she would like to get some counseling for herself because she keeps having flashbacks to DV incident in Jamaica. She is worried that the children may also be having flashbacks and thinks they should have counseling too. When asked what she does to relieve her anxiety, she said she prays.

On 8/17 in the evening, the worker met with the mother and the children at the home of the babysitter whom Ms. M. had hired to cover while she is looking for a new apartment. Although she still seemed very anxious, the children were reportedly doing well and related comfortably to the worker.

Elevated Risk Conference

On 8/30 an Elevated Risk Conference was held with Ms. M, the worker, and a child evaluation specialist. They discussed the history of domestic violence in the family. Ms. M. said they had several incidents in the past when her husband would get very angry, bump her and put his finger in her face. Thomas would run into the middle of them and say, “Don’t talk to my mommy like that.” Mr. M. would then go to the apartment he shares with his mother in Brooklyn for the weekend. There were two prior complaint of domestic violence in 2002 and 2003 when Ms. M. called the police after fights in which he hit and choked her. However, the incident in Jamaica was the only one in which their father hurt the children physically in any way.

Ms. M. said Megan is very anxious to see her father and keeps asking to call daddy. She sometimes plays with toys and calls them daddy. She covers her ears if anyone gets loud. Thomas is willing to talk with his father, but he doesn’t want to see him. Ms. M. wants her children to see their father, but she doesn’t know how they can ever have a normal relationship.

She also mentioned that before the incident in Jamaica, they had a very close relationship with her husband’s brothers and they are her children’s godfathers. They haven’t said anything to her since the incident, but she is afraid to have her children visit them because their father may be there.

The child evaluation specialist said it was very important to get Mr. M. involved in services such as anger management and batterers’ counseling. The plan recommended was that the CPS worker would continue monitoring the family, make strenuous attempts to engage Mr. M, and follow up on the referral of Mrs. M. to a domestic violence program.

A formal supervisory review was held on 8/31. It was noted that Mrs. M. response to the domestic violence was more than appropriate. She was always focused on safeguarding the children and removing them from the potential for more damage. She is looking forward to becoming engaged with a preventive service program that can help her deal with the domestic violence and other family needs.

 

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