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  • Failure to Protect
  • Volume 12 | Fall 2008

articles | Fall 2008

The Nicholson Decisions
New York’s Response to ‘Failure to Protect’ Allegations

In early 1999, Sharwline Nicholson was a victim of a brutal assault by the father of her child, who was visiting from out of state. While Ms. Nicholson was in the hospital recovering from her injuries, the police removed her children from their babysitter and placed them in foster care. New York City’s child protective services agency, the Administration for Children’s Services (“ACS” or “CPS”), charged Ms. Nicholson with child neglect, claiming that she had “engaged in domestic violence” in the presence of her children. Read more . . .

A Case Study in Post-Nicholson Litigation

In 2004, the New York State Court of Appeals handed down the landmark decision, Nicholson v. Scoppetta, the culmination of a federal class action lawsuit initiated in 2000 on behalf of victims of domestic violence and their children. 1 In its unanimous decision, New York’s highest court held, in part, that a court reviewing a Family Court Act article 10 petition may not find “a respondent parent responsible for neglect based on evidence of two facts only: that the parent has been the victim of domestic violence, and that the child has been exposed to that violence.” The Court of Appeals held that “more is required for a showing of neglect under New York law than the fact that a child was exposed to domestic abuse against the caretaker. Answering the question in the affirmative, moreover, would read an unacceptable presumption into the statute, contrary to its plain language.” Read more . . .

Collaborating for Family Safety:
The Greenbook National Demonstration Initiative and Its Results

Over the past three decades, children exposed to domestic violence have moved from being considered “invisible victims” to being the focus of extensive social science research and the target of innovative interventions. Class action suits such as the Nicholson case have accelerated attention to these children and their families as well as accelerated changes in policy and practice. As this interest was growing nationwide, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), supported by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, convened a national working group in the late 1990s to focus on the fragmentation of services provided to families with children where adult domestic violence was occurring. The children in these families may have been direct victims of child abuse and neglect and/or exposed to the violence between adults in their homes. The result was a set of best practice guidelines published in 1999 as Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment: Guidelines for Policy and Practice. This document has become known as the Greenbook, deriving its name from the color of its cover. Read more . . .