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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. J.H.

January 14, 2008

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
J.H., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND M.B., DEFENDANT.
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF K.B., A MINOR.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FG-09-230-06.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted December 18, 2007

Before Judges Yannotti and LeWinn.

J.H. appeals from an order entered on February 28, 2007, which terminated her parental rights to K.B. We affirm.

K.B. was born on September 2, 2004. His parents are J.H. and M.B. The record shows that J.H. has a long history of substance abuse. The involvement of the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) with J.H. began in March 2002, when it was informed that J.H. tested positive for phencyclidine (PCP). Previously, J.H. had given birth to Q.H. and the child was being primarily cared for by J.H.'s maternal grandmother. Q.H. was removed from the home in October 2003.*fn1 Q.H. was placed with his maternal uncle on April 1, 2005.

K.B. was born substance free; however, at the time of his birth, J.H. tested positive for PCP. Upon his release from the hospital, K.B. was placed with M.B. in an apartment that he shared with the child's paternal grandmother. The Division provided homemaker services to the family.

On September 11, 2004, M.B. refused the homemaker services, and on September 13, 2004, M.B. tested positive for marijuana. K.B. was placed with J.H. on September 15, 2004, and the Division provided housing in a hotel along with homemaker services. Two days later, K.B. was removed from J.H.'s care due to lack of housing and insufficient financial resources. Shortly thereafter, the child was returned to J.H.'s care. She was then residing with K.B.'s maternal step-grandfather. Again, the Division provided homemaker services to the family. In October 2004, the maternal step-grandfather decided that he did not want J.H. and K.B. in his home.

K.B. was placed with foster parents on November 10, 2004. The Division's plan at the time was reunification of the child with his birth parents. However, in January 2006, the Division filed a complaint seeking the termination of J.H.'s and M.B.'s parental rights to K.B. so that the child could be adopted by his foster parents.

Judge Bernadette DeCastro conducted a trial in the matter and filed a written opinion on February 28, 2007, in which she found that the Division had established by clear and convincing evidence all of the criteria under N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1a for the termination of J.H.'s parental rights but had not met its burden in proving that M.B.'s parental rights should be terminated. The judge entered an order on February 28, 2007, terminating J.H.'s parental rights to K.B. The court ordered the gradual return of the physical custody of K.B. to M.B. The Division retained legal custody of the child. The judge ordered that the protective services litigation be re-opened.

J.H. appeals from the February 28, 2007 order terminating her parental rights. J.H. maintains that the Division did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that she harmed K.B. She argues that, assuming that the child has been harmed by his relationship with her, the harm has been eliminated. J.H. contends that the Division failed make reasonable efforts toward reunification. She asserts that the termination of her parental rights to K.B. will do more harm than good. J.H. further maintains that the Division violated the Child's Placement Bill of Rights Act, N.J.S.A. 9:6B-1 to -6 (CPBRA), by placing the child in foster care rather than with a relative.

We have carefully reviewed the record in light of the arguments advanced by J.H. on appeal. We are convinced that there is no merit in the appeal. Therefore, we affirm the order terminating J.H.'s parental rights substantially for the reasons stated by Judge DeCastro in her thorough and comprehensive written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(A) and (E). We add the following comments.

The Division is authorized by N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1a to seek the termination of an individual's parental rights when such relief would be in the child's "best interests." N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. P.P., 180 N.J. 494, 505-06 (2004). "The grounds for termination of parental rights are codified in subsections (1) through (4) of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1a, and are designed to balance parental rights and the State's parens patriae ...


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