This is an action for the termination of the parental rights in the two surviving children of the biological parent, defendant B.W. Her other two children died as the result of a fire which occurred during her absence from the family residence.
It is argued that the mother's borderline retardation, coupled with her level of parenting prior to the fire, mandate the permanent termination of her parental rights. This court must now determine the future of K., age 5, and R., age 3, based upon their "best interests" at this juncture.
Subsequent to the fire the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) on January 9, 1976 filed a child neglect complaint, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21 et seq.
On February 18, 1977 this action was expanded to include a petition for the termination of parental rights under N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15, upon the motion of the law guardian of K. and R. The Division initially opposed this petition, but on May 20, 1977 it formally joined therein.
A criminal complaint was also filed against B.W. On November 5, 1976 she pled guilty to three counts of child neglect. She was subsequently sentenced to three years of probation.
Sometime during the late afternoon of January 1, 1976 B.W. went to see a movie in Philadelphia with her two year old son R. and her boyfriend P. Her other three children, B., age 5, Bob, age 1 and K., age 4 were left at home alone, "under B's supervision." Prior to their return a fire broke out in the house, killing B. and Bob. K. was rescued and taken to a hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation.
B.W. was arrested upon her return and R. immediately placed in a foster home. K. joined her brother several days later, upon her release from the hospital.
Both children were then removed to a second foster home, where they stayed until October 1976. At that time they
were placed in a third foster home with Mr. and Mrs. B., where they have remained until the present time.
For any adult to leave children of these ages unattended -- save for an emergent reason -- is an act in derogation of a singular responsibility. Unfortunately, B.W.'s gross judgmental error, however innocently made and sincerely regretted, has resulted in consequences that shall stand for all time.
The evidence in this case compels the finding that B.W. is guilty of an act of neglect against three of her children. The evidence further supports the finding that this was the only incident of neglect shown.
These two children have spent about one year in the B. household. The foster home is described, in one of the numerous social/psychological evaluations presented in this case, as "being able to provide the stimulation, nurturing, guidance and structure" the children need. As noted previously, this is the third foster home that K. and R. have lived in since the night of the fire. Throughout this entire period there has been an unbroken chain of visitation between B.W. and her two children.
By order of this court, visits were for one hour a week in the office of the Division, until January 26, 1977. At that time visitation was increased, by court order, to three hours a week in the home of B.W. The initial schedule was reinstated on February 18, 1977 in order to minimize the trauma being experienced by the children.
There was substantial testimony relating to the increasing difficulty that the caseworker was encountering in returning the children to their foster home after each visit with B.W. This difficulty stemmed from the children themselves, not from any interference by their mother. B.W. ...