AARP’s brief argues that children placed in foster care and their related foster parents deserve prompt hearings when there are allegations of abuse.
Many children are now being raised by grandparents and other extended family members. The tradition of uncles, aunts, cousins, and especially grandparents sharing a household with children has been recognized as deserving protection by the Constitution. Children and their related kinship foster care parents have due process rights that mandate a prompt hearing occur when a child has been removed from his or her home by a government agency.
This case concerned a great aunt who cared for a grandniece who was placed into foster care after allegations that her sixteen-year-old mother neglected her. A year after being placed in her care, the child was removed from Alice Hayes care and placed with unrelated foster parents. The removal occurred because of suspicious marks which were later determined to have been caused by a shellfish allergy. After a hearing, the child was returned to Alice with no finding being made of abuse or neglect; but it took five months for that hearing to happen, during which time the child remained with unrelated foster parents.
Haynes sued the City, arguing that the Department of Social Services’ procedures violated protections in New York Constitution and federal laws. The district court held that New York's removal procedures did not violate clearly established law regarding the due process rights of kinship foster parents and Haynes appealed. AARP’s friend-of-the-court brief reviews the studies that document the better outcomes children in foster care have when placed with extended family members. The brief also cites the numerous studies that show the benefits of close and continuing relationships between grandparents and grandchildren.
AARP’s brief argues that the multi-month delay in determining placement of the child was harmful to the child, and, violated the due process rights of both the child and the great aunt.
What’s at Stake
Grandparents (and other relatives) are increasingly stepping up to care for their grandchildren. In New York alone, 10 percent of children live in homes where the householders are grandparents or other relatives, and of these more than 40,000 of the children have none of their parents present in the home.
Haynes v. Mattingly is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.