On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FG-07-266-05.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 11, 2007
Before Judges Wefing, Parker and R. B. Coleman.
Defendant T.N. appeals from a judgment entered on October 25, 2006 terminating her parental rights to two of her biological children, L.N., now eight years old, and R.N., now seven years old.
The following is a brief summary of the more extensive record in the case. The Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) first became involved with defendant's children when her oldest child was born multiply handicapped. That child was ultimately placed in a residential facility where he remains today. DYFS has legal custody of that child and he is not a subject of this appeal.
When L.N. and R.N. were born, defendant was living with her mother, M.N., who had been under periodic DYFS supervision during defendant's formative years. Both M.N. and defendant were referred for evaluations in March 2000. Albert Griffith, Ed.D., who did the evaluations, reported that M.N. functions between borderline and low level I.Q. and has a retarded level of social judgment and low average social sensitivity.
Dr. Griffith determined that defendant had poor insight and appeared to be functioning in the retarded to low average I.Q. range. He indicated that due to her limited verbal skills, limited intellectual ability and behavioral issues, a multiply-handicapped child would be at risk in her custody. Defendant's care of L.N. and R.N. was inadequate. In December 2003, DYFS received a report that L.N. had been sexually abused by defendant's boyfriend. The sexual abuse was substantiated when a medical examination indicated that the child had contracted a sexually transmitted disease (STD). The child was returned to defendant's care, however, with a recommendation for a parenting aide, counseling and a referral for new psychological evaluations of defendant.
In April 2004, DYFS received a report from the Headstart program that the children were not in school that day. When a caseworker visited the home, she was unable to locate defendant and the children. At the same time, it was reported that both children had scabies. A DYFS investigation found that defendant was shuttling between two apartments with the children. The living conditions in both apartments were described as filthy.
At that point, defendant signed a fifteen-day consent for placement. When the children were removed, they were taken to the hospital for examination and it was noted that L.N.'s penis still had bruises and marks four months after the initial finding of sexual abuse, suggesting further abuse after the initial substantiation. The children were placed in foster care and DYFS established a plan for reunification once defendant had undergone parenting skills, training and psychological evaluation. Defendant completed parenting classes at Essex County College on March 15, 2005. A report from the college, however, indicated that defendant had a "real difficult time managing and controlling her two sons." The report further indicated that defendant was unable to have the children listen to her and would need more services to gain such ability.
In June 2004, defendant was further evaluated. The report noted that she was anxious, pessimistic and depressed, had low frustration tolerance, poor impulse control and became emotional when frustrated. She manifested a very high potential to physically abuse the children. Her mental health, as well as her limitations, led to the conclusion that the children would be at significant risk if they remained in her care.
In August 2004, L.N. was evaluated by the Child Study Team and found to have significant developmental delays and behavioral issues. It was determined that he was cognitively impaired and had an I.Q. of fifty-eight. He was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He was referred to the Regional Child Abuse Diagnostic and Treatment Center for psychological evaluation. He reported that his mother's boyfriend had abused not only him, but his brother. R.N. was evaluated for sexual abuse in January 2005 and it was determined that there was possible sexual abuse, a history of medical neglect and aggressive behavior.
While the children were in foster care, defendant's visits with them were "sporadic." She repeatedly cancelled visits and did not reschedule them. When defendant did visit with the children, she was not ...