Matter of Joanne II v. Thomas II
Justice Elizabeth Garry
Father Thomas appealed from orders granting Saratoga County Department of Social Services' (DSS) application adjudicating the four subject children to be abused and/or neglected. Thomas limited his challenge to the determinations of derivative abuse and neglect as to the two eldest children born in 1999 and 2002. DSS alleged Thomas sexually abused the child born in 2006, thus derivatively abused the other three children. The Family Court sustained the petitions prohibiting Thomas from any contact with the children until he successfully completed a sex offender treatment, and placed him under DSS's supervision. Thomas argued proof that one child was abused was admissible on the issue of derivative abuse or neglect, but could not generally serve as the sole basis for such finding. The court here agreed with the Family Court that the evidence here of abuse could suffice to establish derivative abuse or neglect when the conduct evidenced fundamental flaws in father's "understanding of the duties of parenthood so profound as to place any child in his care at substantial risk of harm." Family Court found DSS's witnesses testimony credible, but not father's. Thus, the court affirmed the determination, declining to disturb it.