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In re Guardianship of D.N.

April 8, 1983

IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF D.N., A MINOR


Stamelman, J.J.D.R.C.

Stamelman

This matter involves the role of the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) and the Department of Mental Retardation (DMR) in an application made by DYFS for termination of parental rights of parents who are mentally retarded. There is no reported case in New Jersey dealing with termination of parental rights of mentally retarded parents. This opinion supplements an oral opinion given on April 8, 1983.

The mother is D.N., age 32, and the father is R.G., age 23. D.N. has been under the care of DMR since mid-December 1981.

R.G. has been under the care of DMR since 1978. They have been living together since December 1980 in an apartment in Long Branch under the Community Living Program sponsored by DMR.

DYFS received a referral regarding D.N. from the Workshop Opportunity Center on August 13, 1981. The parents had been attending a vocational training program at the workshop. The caseworker at the workshop recognized that D.N. was in need of prenatal care and that services would also be required to care for the child after birth.

The child, baby Diane, was born on November 18, 1981. DYFS had prepared for the care of the child by arranging for home health aides on a 24-hour basis for the first week and thereafter on an eight-hour daily basis until December 24, 1981. The homemakers gave instructions to D.N. regarding care, feeding and bathing of the baby. In addition, DYFS arranged for a Public Health nurse to come to the home two to three times a week from November 24, 1981 to January 4, 1982. The DYFS caseworker had contact with D.N. almost every day. She visited regularly to assure that the child was getting proper care and that D.N. was receiving instructions for the care of the baby.

After December 24, 1981 when the services of the home health aides stopped, the parents had difficulty meeting the feeding schedule. The DYFS caseworker became concerned that the baby was not getting enough formula. A medical checkup conducted on January 4, 1982 revealed that instead of gaining weight she had lost six grams since its prior medical checkup on December 15, 1981. The baby was then admitted to the hospital for three days.

Because DYFS concluded that the baby was not getting proper care it asked the parents to sign a voluntary foster care agreement. The DYFS caseworker had obtained approval for the parents to sign the agreement from the DMR caseworker, the caseworker from Community Workshop, and from R.G.'s father. The agreement was signed on January 7, 1982.

On January 17, 1982, the baby was placed in a foster home and has remained there ever since. Visitation was arranged for the parents every two weeks beginning in February 1982.

DYFS prepared and DMR approved service contracts which provided that DMR would arrange tutors for the parents to develop their parental skills and improve their life skills. These contracts were signed on March 24, May 6 and June 16, 1982. Each provided for a short-term goal to increase visits, and a long-term goal for return of the child.

Because DYFS concluded that no significant progress had been made towards achieving the service contract objectives, the case was transferred to the Adoption Resource Center on August 25, 1982. DYFS subsequently filed this complaint for termination of parental rights on October ...


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