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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. L.I.

July 13, 2007

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
L.I. AND T.I., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS,
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF L.I., JR., AND D.K.I., MINORS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FG-07-235-05.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 31, 2007

Before Judges Stern, Sabatino and Lyons.

T.I. and L.I. appeal from a judgment of the Family Part entered on May 15, 2006, terminating their parental rights to their daughter D.K.I. and their son L.I., Jr.*fn1 We have consolidated the appeals for purposes of this opinion.

The daughter, now age eleven, was born in March 1996, and the son, now four and one-half years old, was born in August 2002. Judge Callahan rendered a lengthy oral opinion resulting in the termination. Because there is sufficient evidence in the record to support his comprehensive findings of fact, we affirm the legal conclusions reached by Judge Callahan.

The Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS or Division) filed a complaint for supervision of T.I.'s older children over ten years ago, and defendants have had a decade of history with DYFS and the courts. There were numerous ongoing evaluations and concerns about defendants' parenting abilities due to defendants having sexual relations in front of the children and D.K.I. being sexually assaulted by her older half- siblings, T.I.'s older sons. There were also concerns flowing from L.I.'s abuse of T.I. and her older sons. Ultimately the two children involved in these proceedings were taken from the family and placed in foster care, and are now each with foster parents willing to adopt them. D.K.I. has been with her foster mother for five years, and L.I., Jr., for almost two years.

T.I. also has had difficulties with her older children, and ultimately all five of her children have been taken from her. We briefly refer to some of the more recent evaluations.*fn2 In 2005, Dr. Leslie Williams reported:

In my professional opinion, within a reasonable degree of psychological certainty, both children would suffer severe and enduring psychological harm if removed from their respective foster parents. Neither child mentioned wanting to live with either Mr. or Ms. [I]. I did not get the sense that either child was terribly connected although as noted above, I did not do a bonding evaluation since neither parent showed for those scheduled appointments.

In November 2005, after ultimately being able to conduct a bonding evaluation with defendants, Dr. Williams reported:

In my professional opinion, within a reasonable degree of psychological certainty, Mr. [I] is not currently capable of providing adequate parenting of [D] and [L]. I share some of the concerns that were noted in Dr. Dyer's report.*fn3 I also found Mr. [I] to not take any responsibility for what happened to his children, preferring to blame Ms. [I] and DYFS. He minimized his own behavior as well as his contributions to what happened to his children. His behavior questions his true motivation for wanting to provide for his children. Mr. [I] may be looking to simply reconcile with Ms. [I] so that she can care for the children and not necessarily that he wishes to be their primary caregiver. Additionally, Dr. Dyer noted that Mr. [I] appeared willing to have Ms. [I]'s older sons back in the home even though these sons had sexually abused [D].

While there is certainly a bond and a level of attachment between [D] and her biological parents, I do not believe that she views them as stable people in her life. I believe that while she would suffer some degree of loss, [D] very much wants to belong to a family and have the security of family life. Based on my bonding evaluation between [D] and her foster mother, [D] appears to see adoption as a way of achieving stability and finally being a family member, something that her biological parents have not been able to provide for her. I do not believe that [L] is significantly attached to either Mr. or Ms. [I]. [L] would not suffer severe and enduring psychological harm if Mr. and Ms. [I]'s parental rights are terminated. [D] would benefit from therapy to help her deal with her sense of loss but I believe that she would also be able to compensate for that loss by feeling that she is securely and firmly part of her foster mother's family.

After meeting further with T.I. in January 2006, Dr. Williams further reported:

Ms. [I] has a long history of DYFS involvement, dating back to 1992. None of her five children are in her care. As noted in my previous reports and in the DYFS records, Ms. [I] has a history of noncompliance with DYFS. She also has a tendency to blame other people and not take responsibility for her behavior.

Ms. [I] has indicated that she would like custody of all five of her children. Her three older sons are in treatment facilities and an independent living situation. [D] was allegedly sexually abused by two of Ms. [I]'s sons. She never mentioned this on the two occasions that I ...


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