December 27, 2007
NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF A.G., A MINOR.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FG-09-119-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 10, 2007
Before Judges S.L. Reisner, Gilroy & Baxter.
Defendant L.G., the biological mother of eight-year old A.G., appeals from the February 16, 2007, order of the Family Part that terminated her parental rights to her son pursuant to N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a). The order also terminated the parental rights of the boy's natural father, A.E., but he has not appealed.
L.G. has a long history of drug abuse, with A.G. being referred to DYFS at birth because of allegations that his mother had used drugs during her pregnancy. In February 2005, L.G. regained custody of her son. In July 2006, L.G. was arrested, and A.G. was placed with Matty Walker, who is L.G.'s aunt.
L.G. maintained a relationship with her son, and A.G. expressed to DYFS's expert, Dr. Frank Dyer, his desire to remain in the custody of his mother, and if he could not, then in the custody of Walker. It was Dyer's opinion that because of L.G.'s history of drug abuse, there was a risk of long-term harm, making her an unsuitable caregiver. It was Dyer's preference that Walker adopt A.G., but if she did not, then if there was another form of permanency available whereby A.G. could remain in Walker's home, he would concur with that result. L.G.'s expert, Dr. Gerard Figurelli, opined that L.G.'s drug problem was in the early stages of a sustained remission.
Initially, Walker had expressed interest in adopting A.G., but at the time of trial, she had changed her mind. She did, however, express interest in providing A.G. with long-term care similar to that which would be provided under a Kinship Legal Guardianship (KLG), N.J.S.A. 3B:12A-6(d). Because DYFS had a policy not to consider KLG for children under twelve years of age, the agency's plan for permanency was to select potential adoptive parents.
At the end of his decision, the judge weighed terminating L.G.'s rights to A.G. against KLG, with Walker serving as the guardian. Ultimately, the judge entered the order we have described.
After the February 16, 2007 order was entered and while this appeal was pending, Walker changed her position, advising the Law Guardian that she now desires to adopt A.G. That fact does not, however, appear of record. Consequently, we order a remand for the limited purpose of the trial judge conducting a short supplementary hearing to ascertain Walker's present intentions. Those remand proceedings should be completed within thirty days. Jurisdiction is retained.
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