Matter of Nicole A v. Maribel A.
Judge Erik Pitchal
The Administration for Children's Services (ACS) commenced a child protective services action against mother Maribel, alleging neglect. The children were placed with the Commissioner and Maribel was required to complete drug and mental health treatment in order to reunify safely with the children. Maribel requested a "trial discharge" of the children to her as she completed her service plan. The agency refused, citing Maribel did not have stable housing of her own. The court noted ACS determined that lack of adequate housing was the only barrier to discharge of the children from foster care. Yet, it directed ACS to commence a trial discharge concluding it was in the children's best interests to be reunified with their mother as soon as possible. The court noted there was no disagreement about Maribel's fitness as a parent, stating being homeless was not a basis for a finding of parental neglect, and housing should not be a barrier to reunification after a parent successfully completed a service plan. It ruled the children would be better served by being with their mother, even in a shelter, than remaining in foster care, concluding while they needed the protection of being in the legal custody of the agency, they did not need to be in the physical, daily care of the Commissioner.