On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FG-09-224-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 24, 2007
Before Judges C.S. Fisher and C.L. Miniman.
In this appeal, we review a judgment terminating the parental rights of defendants I.R. and M.P. to A.P., a female child born on February 4, 2005. In separate appeals, which we consolidated, I.R. and M.P. argue that the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) failed to prove each prong of the test contained in N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a) by clear and convincing evidence. After careful examination of the record in light of the arguments posed, we conclude there was ample credible evidence to support the judge's findings and affirm.
During a two-day trial, Judge Bernadette N. DeCastro heard testimony from the Division's case manager and received in evidence numerous exhibits offered by the Division. I.R. was present during the trial but did not testify; M.P. did not attend.
In her written opinion, Judge DeCastro correctly recognized that to obtain a termination of parental rights, the Division was obligated to prove by clear and convincing evidence that:
(1) The child's safety, health or development has been or will continue to be endangered by the parental relationship;
(2) The parent is unwilling or unable to eliminate the harm facing the child or is unable or unwilling to provide a safe and stable home for the child and the delay of permanent placement will add to the harm . . .;
(3) The division has made reasonable efforts to provide services to help the parent correct the circumstances which led to the child's placement outside the home and the court has considered alternatives to termination of parental rights; and
(4) Termination of parental rights will not do more harm than good. [N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a).]
See also N.J. Div. of Youth & Fam. Serv. v. A.W., 103 N.J. 591, 604-11 (1986).
The record reveals that because of substance abuse -- I.R. acknowledged using heroin and alcohol before, during, and after her pregnancy with A.P. -- the child was born addicted to heroin and suffered severe withdrawal symptoms. Having been born prematurely, A.P. was underweight; she was classified as medically fragile. As a result, a "hospital hold" was placed on the child's release and, following ...