Nora D. Brooks, mother of slain 5-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks, gave up her parental rights to her toddler daughter Tuesday, clearing the way for the little girl’s adoption.
Brooks surrendered her rights in Erie County Family Court, concluding proceedings that started in October 2013 after the infant, Hope Irene, was born Oct. 3 and removed from Brooks’ custody by Erie County Child Protective Services workers. Brooks later sought and was granted supervised visits with the child.
Eain was sexually abused and suffered fatal brain injuries inflicted by Brooks’ boyfriend, Matthew W. Kuzdzal, the father of Hope, while he was watching the boy in their West Side apartment Sept. 15, 2013. Brooks was away from their residence running errands when the attack occurred.
Kuzdzal, now 28, was convicted of second-degree murder and predatory sexual conduct in Eain’s death and was sentenced last fall to 50 years to life in prison.
At the request of attorneys involved in the custody case Tuesday, Family Court Judge Lisa Bloch Rodwin ruled that The Buffalo News could not be present for the proceedings, citing the privacy rights of the child and noting that details of adoptions are placed in sealed records. But before closing the courtroom, the judge stated that Brooks was surrendering her parental rights and that adoption proceedings for the 18-month-old child are planned.
Concerns over Brooks’ parenting skills had been cited in a child-fatality report on Eain by the state Office of Children & Family Services. Brooks, now 26, repeatedly defended Kuzdzal when Erie County social workers responded to their apartments in Lovejoy and on the West Side to investigate complaints that Eain was being physically abused. Brooks also denied harming her son and said that if he suffered injuries, it was accidental, according to the report.
Brooks told the child protection workers that Kuzdzal was “good” with Eain and that he “loved” him.
The report cast Brooks as a parent who decided not to question why her son often ended up injured when he was alone with Kuzdzal, although she eventually acknowledged to a caseworker that it seemed “strange” that Eain’s injuries occurred whenever she was away from their home.
Robin Hart, maternal grandmother of Eain and Hope, said she believes that a positive step was taken with her daughter giving up parental rights.
“Hope needs to have a fair chance at life. Staying with Nora, she would never have one because of all of that’s happened, Eain’s death, her father killing Eain, she doesn’t need to know all that,” Hart said.
“She needs to have a fair chance, go to school where people don’t know who she is. She needs a safe, loving environment, and I’m not saying that Nora doesn’t love her.”