June 6, 2007
DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF A.S.C., T.W.C., AND M.L.C., MINORS.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, FG-04-98-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 22, 2007
Before Judges Coburn and R.B. Coleman.
R.C. filed an appeal from the September 22, 2006, judgment terminating her parental rights to A.S.C., born in 2000; T.W.C., born in 2002; and M.L.C., born in 2004,*fn1 based on the following arguments:
SUBSTANTIAL CREDIBLE EVIDENCE DID NOT EXIST SUPPORTING THE COURT'S FINDING THAT THE "BEST INTERESTS" TEST WAS PROVEN BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE.
THERE DID NOT EXIST CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE FINDING THAT THE HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHILDREN WERE AND WOULD CONTINUE TO BE ENDANGERED BY THE PARENTAL RELATIONSHIP.
THERE DID NOT EXIST CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT A FINDING THAT THE APPELLANT WAS UNWILLING OR WAS UNABLE TO ELIMINATE THE HARM FACING THE CHILDREN.
THERE DID NOT EXIST CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE THAT THE DIVISION MADE "REASONABLE EFFORTS" TO PROVIDE SERVICES TO R.C.
THE COURT'S FINDINGS THAT TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS WILL NOT DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD IS NOT SUPPORTED BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE.
After carefully considering the record and briefs, we are satisfied that the judgment is based on findings of fact which are adequately supported by evidence, R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(A); that all of appellant's arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion, R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E); and that we should affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Page in his thorough and well-reasoned oral decision of September 22, 2006. Nonetheless, we add the following comments.
Despite almost a decade of intervention by the Division of Youth and Family Services ("DYFS"), R.C. has been unable to address her serious substance abuse problem and to adequately care for her children. DYFS has repeatedly arranged for R.C. to receive drug treatment, and on each occasion she has been non-compliant. All three children were finally removed from R.C.'s custody on July 20, 2004, when M.L.C. was born with cocaine in his blood, and are currently living in homes with families that want to adopt them.
The judgment was fully supported by lay testimony and by the testimony of Dr. Linda Jeffrey, a psychologist, who opined that the children would be in danger in the care of R.C. and that it would not cause more harm than good to terminate R.C.'s parental rights. Although R.C. chose not to attend the trial, her attorney did present expert testimony from Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, but there is no basis for rejecting Judge Page's determination that Dr. Jeffrey was a far more credible witness.
Of course, we recognize that, in general, parental rights are of constitutional dimension, In re Adoption of Children by L.A.S., 134 N.J. 127 (1993), but when intervention by way of terminating parental rights is necessary to protect children, as is the case here, and the judge's decision to that effect is supported by the evidence, we are obliged to affirm. In re Guardianship of K.H.O., 161 N.J. 337, 347 (1999); Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co., 65 N.J. 474, 483-84 (1974).