The Fourth Department, reversing (modifying) Family Court determined the evidence did not support the finding that father abandoned the child, but the evidence did support a finding of permanent neglect. The criteria for permanent neglect, not summarized here, are described in some depth in the decision. The matter was sent back for a dispositional hearing or a waiver of the hearing:
“An order terminating parental rights may be entered upon the ground that a child’s parent abandoned such child for the period of six months immediately prior to the date on which the petition is filed in the court’ ” … . A child is deemed abandoned “if the parent evinces an intent to forego his or her parental rights and obligations as manifested by his or her failure to visit the child and communicate with the child or agency, although able to do so and not prevented or discouraged from doing so by the agency’ ” … . “Parents are presumed able to visit and communicate with their children and, although incarcerated parents may be unable to visit, they are still presumed able to communicate with their children absent proof to the contrary” … .
Here, the record establishes that the father—following up on a prior attempt to establish paternity that he had initially failed to adequately pursue—definitively established his paternity, while incarcerated, less than two months into the six-month period preceding the filing of the petition … . Thereafter, throughout the relevant period, the father initiated communications with the child’s caseworker; sent the caseworker at least four letters inquiring about the child and included a card and drawing for the child in at least one of those letters; and participated in a service plan review. We conclude that the father’s contacts “were not minimal, sporadic, or insubstantial” … . Matter of Jarrett P. (Jeremy P.), 2019 NY Slip Op 04609. Second Dept 6-7-19