On appeal from the final decision of the Department of Human Services, Division of Youth and Family Services.
Morton I. Greenberg, O'Brien and Gaynor. The opinion of the court was delivered by O'Brien, J.A.D.
This is an appeal from a decision by the Director of the Division of Youth & Family Services Management Team of the Department of Human Services (Director) to remove a child from the home of prospective adoptive parents. We affirm.
J. and D.P. (appellants) had been approved by the Division of Youth & Family Services (DYFS) to adopt a child after an extensive review process. See N.J.A.C. 10:121A-5.6(a). A child born on January 11, 1982 was placed with appellants for adoption on September 22, 1983. The child was removed from their home on February 1, 1984. The removal was initiated following a call on January 31, 1984 from Mrs. P. to a public health nurse in which she said, according to the nurse, that the child
started becoming increasingly cranky and demanding. In response to his behavior Mrs. [P.] stated that she 'beat' him and would have to label her actions as child abuse.
She was further quoted by the nurse as admitting "to having a 'rough time' with her husband lately and to feeling isolated and frustrated since [the child's] arrival" and further that she "has been responding to his behavior by hitting." The child's behavior was described by Mrs. P. as "obnoxious." Mrs. P. had been employed by DYFS as a social worker for some ten years. Thus she acknowledged that she knew that it was against
regulations to use corporal punishment on children placed for adoption.
Appellants do not question the right of DYFS to remove a child from the home of prospective adoptive parents under appropriate circumstances but contend that the procedures utilized in the removal of the child from their home were constitutionally impermissible.
Subsequent to the removal of the child from the appellants' home, an "administrative review" hearing was held on February 23, 1984. The hearing was conducted by Virginia Coon, of the Office of Operations Support of DYFS. It was attended by appellants and their attorney, a manager, assistant supervisor and case worker from the Adoption Resource Center (ARC), the public health nurse and her supervisor, as well as a case worker employed by DYFS in another county who had made an investigation of appellants in view of Mrs. P.'s prior employment by DYFS in Mercer County, and lastly, by a deputy attorney general.
After the hearing, Ms. Coon recommended that appellants undergo a psychological assessment in order to
identify the specific strengths and weaknesses of each individual's behavior characteristics that effect [ sic ] their ability to parent [the child] and effect [ sic ] the marital relationship as it pertains to the addition of a child to the family.
She further concluded that "the results of this psychological assessment should serve as the basis of the decision as to whether or not the child should be returned to [appellants'] home." She provided that the selection of the psychologist be made by appellants, ...