On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Bergen County, Docket No. FG-02-65-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Wefing, Parker and Yannotti.
Defendant F.P. appeals from an order filed on October 31, 2006, terminating her parental rights to N.P., and awarding plaintiff Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division) guardianship, care, custody, and control of the minor child for purposes of adoption. We affirm.
N.P. was born on August 10, 1997. F.P is her mother and J.A. is her father. The child was born deaf in both ears, and in January 2000, a cochlear implant was placed in her left ear. F.P. and J.A. later divorced. The Division's involvement with the family began on August 22, 2003, when F.P. threatened to kill J.A. during a court hearing on F.P.'s application for an increase in child support. The judge summoned a Division worker and asked to have F.P.'s mental state evaluated.
The screener found that F.P. did not pose a risk of harm to N.P; however, after F.P. was told that a domestic violence restraining order had been entered against her, and her application for an increase in child support had been denied, F.P. became irate and told the Division's worker to put the child in foster care, or send her to live with J.A. F.P. exited the courthouse leaving the child behind. N.P. was temporarily placed with N.P.'s maternal uncle K.P. and his wife S.P. The Division filed a protective services complaint on August 25, 2003. On August 25, 2003, the judge granted the Division custody, care and supervision of N.P. and ordered psychological evaluations of F.P. and J.A.
In January 2004, K.P. and S.P. advised that they were unable to continue to care for N.P. The Division contacted other family members but none were available to take responsibility for N.P.'s care. Consequently, the child was placed with foster parents J.S. and E.S. At the time, J.S. was a teacher at the school in Hackensack where N.P. was enrolled. J.S. teaches deaf and handicapped students, and she is a sign language interpreter. F.P. expressed her concern over this placement because she believed that J.S. would promote the use of sign language rather than encourage N.P. to speak with the assistance of her cochlear implant.
The Division thereafter took steps towards reunification of the child with her birth parents; however, in August 2005, the Division elected to seek termination of parental rights because F.P. had advised the Division that she intended to move from Bergen County to Princeton, refused to tell the Division where she would be living, said that she would place the child in a learning environment that was not able to provide the sort of services that N.P. required, and conveyed to the Division's caseworker that she was not willing to cooperate with the Division following reunification with the child.
On October 20, 2005, the Division filed its complaint in this matter. J.A. thereafter agreed to surrender his parental rights to the child. Trial in the matter was held on July 24, July 25, September 11, September 13, and September 22, 2006. The Division presented testimony from psychologist Frank J. Dyer, Ph.D. (Dyer); its supervisors Jennifer Koegel and Dolores Cunneely (Cunneely); its case manager Candice Morin (Morin); mental health therapist Sari Breuer (Breuer); case worker Cristina Keresztes; school supervisor Carolyn Mascia Reed (Reed); and psychologist Elizabeth Smith, Psy.D. F.P. did not testify but testimony on her behalf was presented by her grandfather; K.P.; and psychiatrist Syed Arshad Husain, M.D. (Husain).
Following the trial, the judge filed a written opinion in which he concluded that the Division had met its burden of proof and had established by clear and convincing evidence all of the criteria necessary for the termination of F.P.'s parental rights. The judge entered an order on October 31, 2006, in conformance with his opinion, and this appeal followed.
F.P. first argues that the judge erred by concluding that N.P. was harmed by the parental relationship. F.P. also contends that she is capable of providing a safe and ...