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IN RE: DAKOTA F., a Neglected Child. St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services, Respondent; Angela F., Appellant.

Decided: February 16, 2012

Before: MERCURE, Acting P.J., ROSE, SPAIN, MALONE JR. and McCARTHY, JJ. John A. Cirando, Syracuse, for appellant. Laurie L. Paro, St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services, Canton, for respondent. Aaron Turetsky, Keeseville, attorney for the child.

Appeal from an amended order of the Family Court of St. Lawrence County (Potter, J.), entered January 11, 2011, which granted petitioner's application, in a proceeding pursuant to Family Ct Act article 10–A, to extend the placement of respondent's child.

Respondent is the mother of Dakota F. (born in 2003), who is in petitioner's custody. In September 2009, while the permanency planning goal was return to parent, petitioner submitted a permanency hearing report recommending that the goal be changed to placement for adoption. Following a hearing, Family Court issued an order stating that “[p]etitioner's permanency goal for the child is approved as follows: Concurrent plan of return to parent and placement for adoption.”1 Respondent appeals.2

We reverse. Pursuant to Family Ct Act § 1089(d), the proof adduced at a permanency hearing “shall include age-appropriate consultation with the child who is the subject of the permanency hearing.” Although the statute does not require a young child, such as then-six-year-old Dakota, to be personally produced in court (see Matter of Pedro M., 21 Misc.3d 645, 646–648 [2008] ), Family Court must find some age-appropriate manner to consult with the child. The court here erred by not consulting with the child in any manner, or even eliciting an opinion or the child's wishes from the attorney for the child (see Matter of Rebecca KK., 61 A.D.3d 1035, 1037 [2009]; , 876 N.Y.S.2d 217 22 NYCRR 205.17[e] ). We need not decide whether this failure alone requires reversal; that result is necessary due to a more fundamental error.

Family Court erred by imposing concurrent and contradictory permanency goals.3 Pursuant to statute,”[t]he permanency goal may be determined to be: (A) return to parent; (B) placement for adoption with the local social services official filing a petition for termination of parental rights; (C) referral for legal guardianship; (D) permanent placement with a fit and willing relative; or (E) placement in another planned permanent living arrangement that includes a significant connection to an adult willing to be a permanency resource for the child” (Family Ct Act § 1089[d][2][i] ). As signified by the use of the conjunction “or” and the singular word “goal” as opposed to the plural “goals,” the permissible options for the permanency goal are listed as alternatives, with the court to choose only one. Nothing in the statute indicates that the court may select and impose on the parties two or more goals simultaneously.4 The goals selected here, which the court ordered petitioner to implement concurrently, are inherently contradictory. Petitioner cannot reasonably work toward the goal of placing the child for adoption—which, pursuant to the statute, requires petitioner to file a petition to terminate respondent's parental rights (see Family Ct Act § 1089[d][2][i] [B] )—while at the same time trying to return the child to his parent (but see Matter of Sharu K., 20 Misc.3d 479, 487 [2007] [stating that a court “may adjudicate a particular goal yet direct the [agency] to engage in concurrent planning”]; Matter of Marylou L. v. Tenecha L., 182 Misc.2d 457, 464 [1999] ). Because the court did not consult with the child and imposed concurrent—and inherently contradictory—permanency goals rather than a single permanency goal, we must remit for further proceedings.

Based upon our remittal, we need not address the parties' remaining contentions.

ORDERED that the amended order is reversed, on the law, without costs, and matter remitted to the Family Court of St. Lawrence County for further proceedings not inconsistent with this Court's decision.


MERCURE, Acting P.J., ROSE, SPAIN and MALONE JR., JJ., concur.

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