A Suffolk county judge stripped a woman of custody of her children Friday, two days after authorities discovered that her home in Lindenhurst was littered with feces, garbage and bottles of urine.
Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge Mark Cohen also ordered Deborah Young, her estranged husband, Ray Young Jr., and their three daughters, to undergo psychological evaluations.
The judge's decision to place the Young children together in a therapeutic county-supervised foster home effectively denied a request made by Ray Young Jr., that he be given custody of the children. "It is very much the court's intention to keep the children together," Cohen said.
Deborah Young, 46, appeared calm as the judge announced his decision.
She and her daughters -- ages 10, 12 and 14 -- had been visiting her parents in upstate Windham, N.Y., when authorities showed up at her home Wednesday afternoon and made the disturbing discovery after her ex-husband alerted them. Deborah Young was ordered back to Long Island on Thursday for a meeting with Suffolk County's Child Protective Service officers, and to attend Friday's emergency hearing.
In court, she seemed composed between several rounds of private negotiations before the brief hearing in Central Islip. But Deborah Young cried and hid her face behind a multi-colored scarf as she left the court building, where she was surrounded by television cameras and reporters shouting questions at her.
Deborah Young's mother, Jean Lucania, 71, trailed several feet behind her daughter. "She's a good person and a good mother," she said, clutching the arm of her husband, John Lucania.
"They drove her off her head, those miserable -- -- ," she shouted, adding that she was referring to Ray Young Jr. and his family. She did not elaborate.
Later Friday, Deborah Young was permitted to remove some personal items from the house and tearfully sent a brief message to her daughters: "Your mommy loves you. We'll be together soon."
Ray Young Jr., who is in divorce proceedings with Deborah, says he went earlier this week to the white two-story home he and his father own and found a scene of horror: the house interior filled with feces, bottles of urine, and piles of used toilet tissue.
Among the refuse were touches of normalcy -- a doll collection, pictures of the Young children hanging in the kitchen, a stack of kids' books -- but little else to suggest a healthy household.
The condition of the Deborah Young's home, and its possible effect on the children, were referred to only obliquely in court. Citing health concerns, Cohen ordered Deborah Young and the children out of the house. Ray Young Jr. agreed through his attorney to "take all necessary steps" to clean up the property.
"I was hopeful that I was going to get chance to see the kids today ... but I'm thankful the kids are in a safe environment," Ray Young Jr. said after the hearing. Young has not lived with his children since 2001 when he moved out of the Nevada Street house and has said that they were reluctant to live with him.
One of Ray Young's attorneys, Joseph Quatela of Westbury, called the judge's decision to have the family undergo psychological evaluations appropriate. "There can be no doubt that the children have been severely traumatized. Professional intervention is first and foremost what these kids need," Quatela said.
Quatela said that he has repeatedly raised concerns to Joy Jorgensen, a court-appointed attorney who represents the Young children, and others about Deborah Young's mental health over the course of the divorce but does not know if a Jorgensen or another official ever entered the home. "But obviously if someone had done that ... we wouldn't be where we are today," he said. Jorgensen and Deborah Young's attorney, Maureen Glass of Babylon, did not return calls Friday.
Ray Young Jr. called Jean Lucania's suggestion that he and his family held some responsibility for his wife's mental state "incredible."
"I have a lot of sadness on my part too. I went through the divorce too, and ... I don't subject children to this," he said. "The way the children were living, let's be real, was inexcusable."
The Youngs are scheduled to appear in court again on March 6 for a status meeting with the judge and a child protective services representative.
Dennis Nowak, spokesman for Suffolk Child Protective Services, said it was common for judges to order psychological evaluations for both parents and children in cases where alarms are raised about the safety of a family's home, or when a non-guardian parent seeks custody.
Nowak said that such evaluations are typically done by a mental health care provider under contract with the Department of Social Services and can take as long as several weeks. In 2006 there were 872 children in foster care in Suffolk County, with an average stay lasting just under 21 months. "Foster care is always temporary. The goal is always to reunite children with their parents if at all possible," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.