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State in Interest of Doe

Decided: June 15, 1979.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY IN THE INTEREST OF VIRGINIA DOE, A JUVENILE


Page, P.J.J.D.R.C.

Page

[169 NJSuper Page 586] This matter is before the court on motion for reconsideration of disposition in a juvenile delinquency case. Defendant Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), was joined as a party on motion of counsel for the juvenile. The issue presented is the juvenile's right to treatment and the responsibility of the court and

DYFS to provide a residential treatment facility for her as an alternative to the State Training School for Girls at Jamesburg.

The juvenile, herein referred to as Virginia Doe, was committed to the State Training School for Girls at Jamesburg for an indeterminate term not to exceed three years, at a dispositional hearing in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on January 25, 1979. The commitment was based on a violation of her probation, which was imposed after an adjudication of delinquency for breaking and entering. This was only Virginia's second delinquency adjudication, although she had numerous prior status offenses for running away, incorrigibility and truancy.

Virginia was first brought to the attention of DYFS and the Juvenile Court as a victim of child abuse in July 1976 when she was hospitalized as a result of a beating with an electric cord inflicted by her mother. She was placed in foster care with a goal of returning her to her mother. She ran away from the foster home and went to live with her aunt until she was placed by the Juvenile Court in Alpha House, a group home for girls in Camden. Although this placement was made directly by the Juvenile Court, it was funded by DYFS. She ran away from Alpha House and went to live with her grandmother. Her family and personal problems continued and she was placed in a foster home by DYFS in May 1977.

Virginia's first adjudication for delinquency was in July 1977 for shoplifting. She was placed on probation with the condition she remain in foster care. After again running away from the foster home Virginia was placed in shelter care at the Youth Center until she was returned to her own home in December 1977. She remained at home for the next several months, although she did not attend school on a regular basis. She had a brief stay in another foster home but returned home again in November 1978. In the same month she was picked up for breaking and entering.

On January 1, 1979 Virginia was committed to the Turrell residential program, which is a group home run by the correctional system. When she left that program without permission, a violation of her probation was filed. She was detained until commitment to the State Training School for Girls at Jamesburg on January 25, 1979.

Following her commitment to Jamesburg the Child Advocacy Unit of the Public Defender's Office took an interest in Virginia's case. They interviewed Virginia at Jamesburg and reviewed the DYFS reports. Thereafter, this motion for reconsideration of disposition was filed, together with a motion to join DYFS as a party.

After an extensive factfinding hearing this court determines Virginia's needs are clear and uncomplicated. She is a classic case of an abused child who has predictably "acted out" by running away. She is a learning-disabled child with borderline mentality. It is foreseeable that she would cross the line from the status offenses of running away to the delinquent charge of breaking and entering.

Virginia is not a "hard to place" child. There are many residential treatment facilities designed to meet her needs, either run directly by DYFS or used by it under contracts for services.

It is contended on Virginia's behalf that she has a constitutional and statutory right to treatment which should be protected by this Court.

It is further contended that Virginia should be given the opportunity to enter a residential treatment program that can provide for her needs, as an alternative to incarceration at the State Training School for Girls at Jamesburg.

DYFS contends that the Juvenile Court has no authority to direct its activities even where there is an uncontradicted need for residential treatment. DYFS does not contend, in this case, that an attempt is being made to allocate its financial resources in an excessive manner or that Virginia is not in need of the requested treatment. DYFS further contends

that Virginia's sole remedy to review its action is to file an appeal with the Appellate Division under R. 2:2-3(a)(2).

The Juvenile Court system in New Jersey was established in 1903 as a separate court for the purpose of removing juveniles from the harshness of the adult criminal justice system. The court has been given broad powers to exercise as the parens patriae authority of the state to protect its ...


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