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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. S.A.M.

November 19, 2007

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
S.A.M., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND S.T.M., DEFENDANT,
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF N.A.M., R.B.M., AND C.N.M., MINOR CHILDREN.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Ocean County, Docket No. FG-15-36-05.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 22, 2007

Before Judges Weissbard and Gilroy.

S.A.M., the biological mother of N.A.M., a twelve-year-old girl born June 29, 1994; R.B.M., a ten-year-old boy born August 24, 1995; and C.N.M., a nine-year-old boy born July 3, 1997, appeals from the order of the Chancery Division, Family Part, entered on October 5, 2006, terminating her parental rights to her three children. The order also terminated the parental rights of S.T.M., the children's biological father, who had abandoned the children and defaulted in the action. We affirm.

The New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) first became involved with S.A.M. and her family in 1998. In August 2000, when S.A.M. was hospitalized at Shoreline Behavioral Hospital, she signed a voluntary placement agreement for N.A.M. and R.B.M. C.N.M. remained in the custody of a family friend. On February 1, 2001, after the voluntary placement agreement expired, DYFS filed a complaint for custody of the three children. On February 22, 2001, an order was entered, directing that N.A.M. and R.B.M. continue under the custody, care, and supervision of DYFS and that C.N.M. be placed in the care and supervision of DYFS, pending further order of court. DYFS was granted custody of C.N.M. at a later date. On October 4, 2002, an order was entered returning the three children to the custody of S.A.M. On January 22, 2003, the action was dismissed.

On June 6, 2003, DYFS filed a second complaint seeking the care and supervision of the children, because it had received several substantiated referrals concerning their safety and welfare. An order was entered the same day granting the requested relief. On February 10, 2004, following substantiation of additional referrals of abuse and neglect, an order was entered awarding DYFS continued care, custody and supervision of the children.

On February 14, 2005, DYFS filed a Title 30 complaint for guardianship seeking termination of both parents' parental rights to the three children. Following the conclusion of the trial on October 4, 2006, Judge Hoffman rendered an oral decision, terminating the parents' parental rights. A confirming order was entered the following day. S.A.M. appeals.

Termination of parental rights is authorized when found to be in the best interests of the child. N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. A.G., 344 N.J. Super. 418, 434 (App. Div. 2001), certif. denied, 171 N.J. 44 (2002). Such actions require proof by clear and convincing evidence. N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. L.C., 346 N.J. Super. 435, 439 (App. Div. 2002). Termination actions brought under N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1a are decided under a four-part "best interests of the child" standard, first enunciated by the Court in N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. A.W., 103 N.J. 591, 604-611 (1986) and now codified in N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1a. Under that standard, parental rights may be terminated only when:

(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. Such harm may include evidence that separating the child from his resource family parents would cause serious and enduring emotional or psychological harm to the child;

(3) The [D]ivision 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 ...


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