NY ruling a victory for domestic violence victims

New York mothers who are victims of intimate partner violence can rest a little easier—the state’s highest court ruled yesterday that women should not lose custody of their children because of their partner’s violence.
The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) in New York City has had a policy of removing children from a home where domestic violence is occurring, even if the children aren’t being physically abused. Domestic Violence groups contend that this policy unfairly punishes the mother for a crime that her partner is committing.
But the Court of Appeals ruled unanimously yesterday that the policy violates state laws, after three abused women who had their children taken away from them under the accusation of neglect filed suit.
But this ruling does not mean that children will simply be left in a home that is potentially dangerous. From the NY Times:
The court formalized specific standards for removing children from homes where domestic abuse occurs, requiring that authorities exhaust alternatives and insisting that the possible threat to the child’s health or welfare be imminent…
… the authorities would have to show that the mother was indifferent to the psychological harm that repeated exposure to beatings caused the child in order to justify asking the courts to consider a removal.

I know this is controversial, and that many will feel that children’s safety needs to be put first in violent situations. Naturally I agree, but in my experience as an emergency room counselor for victims of domestic violence, I have to say that this is an extremely important ruling. Many women will not report violence for fear that their children will be taken from them. At least now, if a woman knows that her kids can’t be automatically removed from the home, she’s more likely to seek help—which will benefit her and her children.

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