A unanimous four-member panel of the Second Judicial Department of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a father did not abuse or neglect his children, in spite of the fact that Child Protective Services claimed he did and filed an indicated report against him and a hearing officer sided with Child Protective Services. While the ruling did not give details of the case, Matter of Brian M., it stated "Here, even crediting the testimony of the Child Protective Services caseworker, the petitioner's actions with respect to the subject child did not, under the circumstances here, constitute maltreatment."
The father had been accused of maltreatment of one child for using, according to Child Protective Services, excessive corporal punishment. This caused a finding of derivative maltreatment of his other three children, even though he was not accused of directly abusing them. In its decision, the court defined maltreatment. "A maltreated child is defined as a child whose physical, mental, or emotional condition has been impaired as a result of the failure of his or her parent to exercise a minimum degree of care in providing the child with proper supervision or guardianship, by unreasonably inflicting harm, including the infliction of excessive corporal punishment."
The standard for a hearing officer determining whether or not Child Protective Services should have indicated an abuse or neglect report is a fair preponderance of the evidence. This is a higher standard than the standard a Child Protective Services' investigator uses to decide whether or not to indicate a report. The standard for CPS is some credible evidence. The appellate court's role in reviewing the hearing officer's judgment is "limited to whether the determination is supported by substantial evidence in the record." In the Matter of Brian M., the appellate court ruled that there was not substantial evidence in the record to support the hearing officer's determination, therefore, the court overturned the determination.