On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Ocean County, Docket No. FG-15-24-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 24, 3007
Before Judges Parrillo and Alvarez.
In these consolidated matters, M.L.C. and R.G.D., the birth parents of A.G.D., M.M.D. and N.D.D., appeal from a judgment entered in the trial court terminating their parental rights and granting guardianship of the minor children to the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS).*fn1 Because the trial court's findings are supported by clear and convincing evidence, we affirm.
The relevant facts are as follows. When DYFS once again became involved with this family on December 10, 2004, after an earlier confirmed incident of neglect in February 2001, all three minor children, who were developmentally disabled, were living in squalid conditions in a broken glass-strewn trailer, barely clothed, without immunizations, and suffering from multiple dental and health problems. Medical examinations in March and May 2005 confirmed "medical neglect." The oldest child, A.G.D., born January 13, 1997, had rampant dental decay and was diagnosed with depression and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). His brother, M.M.D., born May 16, 2000, was also diagnosed with ADD, had numerous cavities, and had never been to a dentist. Their sister, N.D.D., the youngest child, born December 31, 2001, had rotted teeth, was non-verbal, not toilet-trained, and significantly developmentally delayed.
Upon removal from the home with the parents' consent for a six-month period, the children's condition improved considerably. Both N.D.D. and M.M.D. have had dental surgery, and all three were up-to-date on their immunizations shots.
N.D.D. is in a handicap pre-school and has been placed with foster parents who are committed to providing for her special needs and who wish to adopt her, and with whom she feels comfortable and attached. M.M.D. is receiving occupational therapy and although originally placed in the same foster home as his brother, A.G.D., has since been placed in another.
Because neither foster family has expressed an interest in adopting either boy, DYFS recommended placement of the boys with their maternal aunt and uncle in North Carolina, pending further investigation.
Unfortunately, the progress enjoyed by the children has not been matched by either their mother, M.L.C., or father, R.G.D.
M.L.C. herself is developmentally disabled, bordering on mental retardation. She has a depressive and impulse control disorder, presents with maladaptive personality traits, and demonstrates poor personal insight and awareness of her children's needs.
Over one year after the children's removal, and following psychological and bonding evaluations, DYFS' expert, Dr. Alan Lee, reported "notable and grave concerns" regarding M.L.C.'s overall parenting and caretaking capacity, and did not support M.L.C. being an independent caregiver to a minor child, much less one with special needs. Dr. Lee also found no evidence of a secure attachment between M.L.C. and A.G.D. and was equivocal as to whether one existed between M.L.C. and her other two children. Dr. William Coffey, who reported on behalf of the Law Guardian, was more definitive, finding that removal of N.D.D. from her foster parents "would likely create such psychological harm in the future that [N.D.D.] would not be able to make lasting attachments to a maternal figure and ultimately suffer irreparable psychological damage."
R.G.D. was also diagnosed with mental and cognitive limitations. According to Dr. Lee, R.G.D. presented with "maladaptive personality traits, including a rather characteristically detached, simplistic, impulsive, and reactive style . . .," which "contributed negatively to parenting and caretaking of [minor children]." Dr. Lee found no "evidence of bonding to a level where if the relationship [between the father and children] ...