Matter of Charles K. v. Charles L.
Justice Elizabeth Garry
Father appealed from an order granting the Tompkins County Department of Social Services' (DSS) application adjudicating the children permanently neglected. Father was incarcerated since September 2009, and the children were removed from mother's home in January 2010 and placed with DSS. After a fact-finding hearing, family court concluded the children were permanently neglected and terminated father's parental rights. Father argued DSS failed to prove it made the requisite diligent efforts to encourage and strengthen his relationship with his children. The court noted in the case of an incarcerated parent, DSS' duty to facilitate the parental relationship may be satisfied by informing the parent of the children's well-being and progress, and responding to the parent's inquiries. It found DSS provided father with permanency reports and facilitated written correspondence with the children, including sending him photos. DSS also explored, but ruled out as unsuitable, placement sources father suggested. The court ruled DSS proved it made affirmative and meaningful efforts, and satisfied its duty to exercise diligent efforts on father's behalf. Thus, it affirmed the order.