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Division of Youth and Family Services v. S.P.

June 7, 2007

DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
S.P., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT,
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF C.X.P., A MINOR.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Cumberland County, FG-06-18-06.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 8, 2007

Before Judges Lisa and Holston, Jr.

Defendant, S.P., appeals the Family Part's July 17, 2006, judgment of guardianship, whereby S.P.'s parental rights to her daughter, C.X.P., were terminated and guardianship of C.X.P. was awarded to the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (Division). We affirm substantially for the reasons expressed in Judge Johnson's thorough and well-reasoned oral opinion of July 17, 2006.*fn1

At trial, the Division offered the testimony of caseworker, Robin Cowell. Additionally, Division referral response reports and contact sheets, a parental fitness evaluation, psychological and bonding evaluations, a psychiatric evaluation, and Division rule-out letters were admitted into evidence. S.P. did not testify or present any evidence in refutation of the evidence presented by the Division.

The Division first became involved with S.P. when she was seventeen years old and two months pregnant with C.X.P. S.P. was picked up by the police for a curfew violation. The Division opened a case to provide parenting classes and prenatal care to S.P. S.P. gave birth to C.X.P. on July 22, 2004.

S.P. and C.X.P. initially resided with J.C., S.P.'s boyfriend, who S.P. initially named as C.X.P.'s father. As a result of a domestic violence incident between S.P. and J.C., S.P. and C.X.P. left J.C.'s house and went to live at S.P.'s mother's house. However, the Division determined that S.P.'s mother's house was not appropriate for S.P. and C.X.P., because the house was a rooming house where several unidentified men resided and there was no bedroom for S.P. or the baby to sleep.

In October 2004, the Division filed a complaint for custody of the two minors, S.P., who was still age seventeen, and C.X.P., who was then three months old. In November 2004, S.P. and C.X.P. were placed at Covenant House Shelter. Less than a month later, S.P. left the shelter with C.X.P. despite being told that she could not. When S.P. and C.X.P. were located, the Division placed mother and baby in two separate relative placements. C.X.P. was placed with a cousin but was removed when a burn mark was found on C.X.P.

On December 15, 2004, S.P. was referred for domestic violence counseling at the Cumberland County Women's Center, parental classes at Fam-Care, and anger management counseling. She was referred to the Robin's Nest "On My Own Program," which assists teenaged mothers with housing assistance, schooling and parenting skills. She did not take advantage of these services.

On January 2, 2005, Dr. Norman D. Schaffer, a psychologist, completed a parental fitness evaluation of S.P. Dr. Schaffer concluded that S.P. showed difficulty relating to others and that parenting skills training would be useful to S.P. However, he concluded individual therapy would not be useful to her because she expects the worst from others and does not think she needs help.

In January 2005, S.P. turned eighteen, left her foster placement, and moved in with J.C., where she remained until J.C. learned that paternity testing eliminated him as C.X.P.'s father. As a result, J.C. threw S.P. out of his home.

Between February and April 2005, S.P. failed to attend domestic violence counseling or parenting classes and refused to comply with counseling because she did not feel it was necessary. The Division scheduled an appointment with the Bridgeton Housing Authority to assist S.P. in obtaining appropriate housing but she failed to attend the appointment.

Cowell testified that S.P., in addition, had not complied with alcohol and substance abuse evaluations, did not have stable housing, was not employed, and declined to ...


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