Justice in Family Court of New York
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"In 2009, the State Senate began a report on court financing with the quote, "Family Court is perhaps the saddest place in New York." The quote is unattributed. But when you step off the elevator into the 8th floor waiting room of the Bronx Family Court building, its truth becomes self-evident. Here and on the floor below are where people wait to be heard in cases against parents and guardians accused of neglecting or abusing their children.
When waiting-room occupants are finally called into courtrooms, their family tragedies play out in 30-minute episodes, strangely leached of drama by the florescent lights and the business-as-usual nature of a bureaucracy that deals in crisis every day.
New York City’s Family Courts are charged with deciding nearly all legal matters involving children and families—from juvenile delinquency arrests to custody battles to paternity suits.
In child protective courtrooms, judges hear petitions filed by the City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) seeking that kids be sent into foster care or—as is now far more often the case—remain with their families under the court-ordered supervision of ACS and its preventive service agencies, which monitor children’s safety at home.
For parents and kids, the stakes couldn’t be much higher. Yet the city’s Family Courts are chronically overburdened and under-resourced, plagued by high caseloads, overworked staff, and a stubborn legacy of dysfunction and delay.
Once a case lands in court, allegations tend to cascade. Unlike in criminal courts, where it’s the burden of the State to prove a specific accusation, a Family Court case might start with the investigation of a parent who leaves her child unsupervised in a homeless shelter, and pick up allegations of educational neglect or drug use along the way. Cases often last for months, or even years, as parents attempt to demonstrate that they’ve resolved the circumstances that brought them to the attention of child welfare in the first place—usually by participating in a range of prescribed social service programs like parenting classes or psychotherapy.
Even then, the notion of ‘resolution’ can be tenuous. Child protective courtrooms deal in people’s most profound and intimate failings—parents failing their kids; spouses and partners failing each other—entangled in all the ways that public systems fail poor families. Their daily fare is homelessness, addiction, unemployment, mental illness, domestic violence, and grinding, intergenerational poverty.
Judges are required to make supremely important decisions ("Will you ever go home to your mother?") under extraordinarily difficult conditions: According to data reported by the court, child protective judges carry average pending caseloads ranging from 409 at any given time in the Bronx to 520 in Staten Island. In the busiest boroughs, judges frequently have two or three hearings scheduled for the same half-hour time slot.
Inevitably, untenable caseloads lead to inefficient hearings, held in brief increments spaced by months of delay. Judges and lawyers waste hours reviewing old testimony. Facts get forgotten and must be repeated. City and foster care caseworkers quit, taking their knowledge of cases with them. Meanwhile, families are dragged through a prolonged and terrifying process, and kids are left in limbo, with no certain way to know where they'll sleep after the next decision is made. Critics call the process “trial by teaspoon.”
“We have taken delay to a new level that other courts don’t have,” says Chris Gottlieb, co-director of the Family Defense Clinic at the New York University School of Law, which represents parents in Family Court. “This level of delay would never happen if the litigants were people who garnered respect.”
-A project of The Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at The New School©️2018
In December of 2009 I began what I never would of imagined being the most horrific dehumanizing experiences of my life. Becoming involved with the Bronx Family Court for an overnight hospitalization that was perceived as an intentional suicide attempt.
On this particular night all that mattered to ACS was what transpired while I was at the hospital, not the factual evidence that led me to the hospital that night. ACS opened their investigation because I was being admitted and my then 8 year old daughter had no supervision. My mother was contacted shortly after I was admitted, however it would take her two hours to arrive to the hospital so she called our other family members residing in NY (my grandmother and aunt) to arrive at the hospital before her to pick up my daughter.
Shorty after the doctor asked me if there was anyone else I would like to be with me until my family arrived. I called someone I invested so much trust in, the grandmother of my (then) 4 month old daugter, Irma B. When I first saw her she was crying and had looked very concerned for me, so I thought. The nurses had taken me to my room and explained to Irma that she would be able to call me shortly after they detach my heart monitor.
About an hour later I had my first phone call it was Irma. She sounded very upset and the tone of her voice was not empathetic. I will never forget the words she yelled. Only someone who truly hates you could be so hateful at a time when another is most vulnerable. She said "Why did you do this Shayna?" I told her it was an accident I had injested too many sleeping pills in a 24 hour period and I walked to the hospital because I felt off. She responds "No, you tried to kill yourself because my son doesnt want to be with you. Ive seen all the naked pictures of you in his phone! If you want d"**k that badly I will go outside and get you all the d**k you need." So mortified of the disgust and disrespectful insinuations she was making I simply cried and hanged up the phone. I was so confused and I did not understand where any of this came from as her son told me the night before when I explained I'd prefer to move closer to my mother for support his response was a rage of jealousy. He told me "if you move out of NY or bring another man around my daughter I will kill you."
After that event took place I was not able to contact my family as the phone in the room only permitted inbound calls and my family was not given the number to my room. I was moved to a differrent location where I was under observation for 24 hours. I had limited visits with my mother. She gave me the devastating news that a social worker was investigating me for neglectful supervision of my 8 year old.
When I was released from the hospital I called the social worker first whom explained to me I was able to pick up my children at their grandparents. She reassured me that everything was standard procedure but there was no court order in place because it was a weekend. She advised me to have a police officer escort me to prevent any problems. I followed her instructions and when I arrived to Irma's home she walked out with her son. She began to tell me my daughter would not be leaving her house over her dead body. She called the social worker and the same social worker that advised me to pick up my daughter was advising her not to release my daughter to me per her supervisors orders.
Afterwards I went home and my daughters room was ransacked, I later found out before Irma's phone call to me in the hospital she lured my 8 year old daughter away from my family to get something to eat while they waited for my mother, pretending to show concern for my daughter just to take out my house keys from my daughters coat pocket to break into my apartment and steal my newborns social security card to have her son claim her on his income taxes. And she did this before she left the hospital and gave a statement to the social worker that I was an unfit mother and my daughter was always unkempt and my daughter was 95% of the time with her son, her false testimony was an opportunity to kick me while I was down and there was not a single shred of truth in anything they said.
That was the beginning of what has now been a 9 year cycle of my constitutional and civil rights being violated. I was diagnosed with post-partum depression when I was released from the hospital. My 8 year old was placed later in foster care after my other daughters grandmother Glenis F refused to allow the processing time to have my mother care for my 8 year old in her state to prevent my daughter from going to foster care, which was done because she wanted to protect her son whom is a pediphile, her family name was more important than my daughters physical, emotional and mental well being.
To make a 9 year story of hell short I have been fighting for visitation to regain joint custody of my kids for years now. Judge Karen lupuloff awarded sole custody of my daughters to their fathers after an insurmountable amount of evidence was provided that should have discredit all the allegations of abuse, neglect and mental illness in my case. I was given one stipulation to follow after another. One inhumane demand after another and I completed everything with grace and humility because my love for my children has always been stronger than these individuals hate for me.
In the past 9 years I've completed 7 mental health evaulations, 3 psychiatric evaluations, parenting classes, anger management classes, volunteer work, graduated programs for women groups, invested my education in Human Services to help those with mental illnesses, and have voluntarily been in active therapy for 9 years.
Because I was dealing with individuals that enjoyed dilberately causing affliction and pain on me, stalked me on social media to use any bit of my personality or lifestyle against me to portray me in the most damaging way. These master manipulators presented a photo of me holding a gun to Karen lupuloff in 2012. I lived in PA, the other parties lived in NJ and the other parties lived in NY. Both parties made a statement that they feared for their lives and their daughters safety. And instantly Karen Lupuloff granted emergency orders of protection and all weekend visitations were suspended.
She did this knowingly witnessing two men that have undeniable tried to sabotage my relationship with my children, alienate them from all my family including their sister who is now 16 and has been denied visits and phone calls from each of these families for the past 9 years.
Karen Lupuloff granted an order of protection thats meant to protect actual victims of abuse to two men that undoubtedly caused all abuse and neglect in my case. She dismissed every unexcused failure to appear in court, dismissed pornographic photos posted on one of the parties social media including his death threats directed to me and his disregard to obsess over me on Twitter while rapping on YouTube about his disrespect for police and degrading women. She dismissed the false reports and purjury in her court room. She also banned my father that wasnt a party to the case and had little to no involvememt with my children because the true pedophile in this case was bitter about my knowledge to his "secret society" as he called it. While I and my father were humiliated of false allegations of sexual abuse, rape and a multitude of demented lies this party got away with saying and living a double life as a homosexual sex addict that pursued sexual contact with both men and women of all ages including minors that clearly thought they were speaking to a single man with no kids as all his profile stated, yet he was a father and married by day and only when it was time to appear in court.
The ones that caused domestic violence, psychological abuse and mental anguish were protected by lies and a corrupt judicial system. I was the prisoner fighting for my freedom as Karen lupuloff stripped me of all parental rights. Then she made it so it would be nearly impossible to regain my parental rights by stipulating a new order, requesting another psych and mental evaluation with an intelligence test because all the other doctors and therapist were too biased towards those that opposed me and the forensic psychologist had an attraction to me so his report of custody recommendation was dismissed. And after 5 years of no visitation I am financial responsible to support my children that I can never see, speak to or be there for as any loving mother should.
After years of me trying everything humanly possible to come to a resolution for this matter that includes peace, I am beating a dead horse at this point. The individuals involved in my case need to be held accountable for the atrocity and failures repeatedly done to three innocent children that only ask for a normal life. I only ask for justice because I want to move on with my life but cannot without them.
I could never understand how I could be deemed unfit for two daughters that have been removed from my care that were tied into a case by relationship to their sibling. They were not at the hospital, they were not present during the incident that occurred December 2009. My eldest daughter was returned to me after all stipulations were completed. ACS closed the case, they forced me to give temporary custody to the fathers to not have an abuse charge on my record and dispite me saying I don't care what I am charged with there's no validity in anyones testimony I do not agree to temporary custody I want my kids back they still did what they wanted with me anyway, I had no control over the situation. No one protected my rights, all four of my lawyers at the Bronx Defenders failed me and covered up for Karen Lupuloff to protect their own position. My eldest daughter has been in my care since. One of my children resided in another state at the time which NY had no jurisdiction to award sole custody to. And now for 7+ years were still fighting for basic visitation. Every Case I pursue continues to be dismissed without prejudice. And the cycle has to be repeated again without any resolve while the true abusers get away unscathed?
Please sign this petition so that my children can finally have a voice and so that all the parents and children that are under the unmericiful hands of the family court system can have the respect, justice and resolution they deserve. I know I'm just one person but I don't mind being that one person that can begin the desperately needed change for someone else that can relate to my horrible experience with the New York Family Court system.
Expose these judges and lawyers that abuse their power for political gain, that violate their duty of professional conduct, have no regard for the best interest of the children they make decisions for as well as have no remorse about their influence to participate in destroying the lives of families that cannot afford true freedom. Narcissistic parents that blatantly refuse to co-parent and get away with years of aggressive parental alienation.
Thank you, You have our deepest gratitude.
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