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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. M.G.

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


February 11, 2008

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
M.G., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF N.J. AND Z.J., MINORS.
NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
L.J., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF N.J. AND Z.J., MINORS.

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FG-07-220-06.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 22, 2008

Before Judges Lintner, Parrillo and Graves.

In these consolidated appeals, defendant M.G. is the mother, and defendant L.J. is the father of two young boys: N.J., born March 31, 2001, is now six years old, and Z.J., born June 29, 2002, is five years old. N.J. suffers from "pervasive developmental delays," and Z.J. was born with Downs Syndrome. The parents appeal from a judgment entered on January 31, 2007, terminating their parental rights.

On appeal, M.G. presents the following arguments:

POINT I THE DIVISION DID NOT PRESENT CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE COURT'S FINDINGS THAT THE HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHILDREN WERE AND WOULD CONTINUE TO BE ENDANGERED BY THE PARENTAL RELATIONSHIP.

POINT II THE DIVISION DID NOT PRESENT CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE COURT'S FINDINGS THAT M.G. WAS UNWILLING OR UNABLE TO ELIMINATE THE HARM FACING THE CHILDREN.

POINT III THE COURT'S FINDINGS THAT THE DIVISION HAS MADE REASONABLE EFFORTS TO PROVIDE SERVICES TO HELP [CORRECT] THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH LED TO THE REMOVAL OF N.J. AND Z.J. AND THE COURT HAS CONSIDERED ALTERNATIVES TO TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS IS NOT SUPPORTED BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE.

POINT IV THE COURT'S FINDINGS THAT TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS WILL NOT DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD IS NOT SUPPORTED BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE.

L.J. makes the following arguments:

POINT I THE TRIAL COURT VIOLATED L.J.'S RIGHT OF DUE PROCESS UNDER THE CONSTITUTION, WHEN IT TERMINATED HIS FUNDAMENTAL PARENTAL RIGHTS.

POINT II L.J.'S PARENTAL RIGHTS TO HIS SONS [Z.J. AND N.J.] SHOULD NOT BE TERMINATED BECAUSE THE FINDINGS OF THE TRIAL JUDGE AND THE EVIDENCE ADMITTED AT TRIAL DO NOT SUPPORT A LEGAL CONCLUSION THAT ALL FOUR PRONGS OF THAT TEST WERE MET.

POINT III L.J. RECEIVED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL DURING THE TERMINATION OF HIS PARENTAL RIGHTS HEARING UNDER FG-07-220-06.

After reviewing the record and applicable law in light of these contentions, we conclude the trial court's findings are supported by clear and convincing evidence, and its legal conclusions are sound. We therefore affirm the judgment terminating defendants' parental rights substantially for the reasons stated by Judge Callahan in his comprehensive oral decision on January 31, 2007.

When biological parents resist the termination of their parental rights, the function of the court is to decide "whether the parents can raise their children without causing them further harm." In re Guardianship of J.C., 129 N.J. 1, 10 (1992).

[T]he cornerstone of the inquiry is not whether the biological parents are fit but whether they can cease causing their child harm. [N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. A.W., 103 N.J. 591, 607 (1986)]. The analysis of harm entails strict standards to protect the statutory and constitutional rights of the natural parents. The burden falls on the State to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the natural parent has not cured the initial cause of harm and will continue to cause serious and lasting harm to the child. [Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 768, 102 S.Ct. 1388, 1402, 71 L.Ed. 2d 599, 616-17 (1982)]. [Ibid.]

While recognizing the fundamental nature of parental rights and the need to preserve and strengthen family life, our Legislature has declared that "the health and safety of the child shall be the State's paramount concern when making a decision on whether or not it is in the child's best interest to preserve the family unit." N.J.S.A. 30:4C-1(a). "The balance between parental rights and the State's interest in the welfare of children is achieved through the best interests of the child standard." In re Guardianship of K.H.O., 161 N.J. 337, 347 (1999). This standard, initially formulated by the Court in A.W., supra, 103 N.J. at 604-11, and codified in N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a), requires the State to establish each of the following standards by clear and convincing evidence before parental rights may be severed:

(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 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).]

These four requirements "relate to and overlap with one another to provide a comprehensive standard that identifies a child's best interests." K.H.O., supra, 161 N.J. at 348. "The considerations involved . . . are extremely fact sensitive and require particularized evidence that address the specific circumstances in the given case." Ibid. (internal quotations omitted).

In the present matter, M.G. is now twenty-five years old, and L.J. is twenty-seven years old. The Division of Youth and Family Services (Division or DYFS) first became involved with this family on December 19, 2001, when it received a referral from Newark Beth Israel Medical Center indicating N.J. had suffered "fractures of the distal femur and proximal tibia of different ages. Child abuse must be suspected." M.G. and L.J. stated they were unaware of N.J.'s fractures, and M.G. said she associated N.J.'s discomfort with immunization shots that N.J. received in his right and left thighs on December 5, 2001.

On December 27, 2001, M.G. authorized the Division to place N.J. with a relative. Shortly thereafter, on January 11, 2002, the Division filed an order to show cause and verified complaint. The court determined that N.J. had "suffered leg fractures which were not accidental," and it ordered that N.J. "be immediately made a ward of the [c]court and placed in the immediate custody, care and supervision of the Division." On the same date, M.G. obtained a domestic violence restraining order against L.J.

On January 29, 2002, the return date for the order to show cause issued on January 11, 2002, the court ordered that: (1) N.J. was to remain in the custody, care, and supervision of the Division; (2) M.G. and L.J. were required to attend parenting skills training and to have psychological evaluations; and (3) M.G.'s visitation was to be supervised by N.J.'s caretaker, and L.J.'s supervised visitation was to take place at the Division's office.

Pursuant to the order of January 29, 2002, Dr. Frank J. Dyer performed "individual psychological examinations" of M.G. on April 12, 2002, and L.J. on April 15, 2002. Dr. Dyer's evaluation of M.G. revealed a history of both physical and sexual abuse by her father. M.G. was expelled from school in the 10th grade for fighting, but completed her high school education at "an alternative school." M.G. stated that prior to obtaining the domestic violence restraining order against L.J. her relationship with him was abusive, but she would take him back if he attended anger management classes. M.G. volunteered she "thought that [L.J.] had broken [N.J.'s] leg," even though she did "not know this for a fact." Further, M.G. told Dr. Dyer that L.J. would curse at N.J. and "[i]f [N.J.] cry he tell [N.J.] to shut the F. up and he called [N.J.] a faggot, and I tell him he can't be calling [N.J.] that because [N.J.] is just a baby." M.G. also told Dr. Dyer that L.J. "used to call [N.J.] a cry baby and told the child that only girls are supposed to cry." Dr. Dyer cautioned that M.G.'s "unwillingness to accept that [L.J.] inflicted severe injuries on her son, however, raises questions about [M.G.'s] ability to protect the child if she became reinvolved with [L.J.] or became involved with a new abusive paramour." Nevertheless, Dr. Dyer was "guardedly optimistic" that M.G. could parent her son if: (1) she had no contact with L.J. "as per the current court order"; (2) she obtained parenting skills training; and (3) she received "individual counseling or therapy to help her to work through her traumatic past and to acquire some insight into her re- creating her original traumatic family circumstances in her present relationship."

Dr. Dyer's evaluation of L.J. revealed that he achieved an 11th grade education at a "facility for students with behavioral problems" before being expelled for fighting. L.J. reported "that he was arrested three or four times" for possession of drugs with intent to distribute, assault on a law enforcement officer, and violation of probation. The results of Dr. Dyer's testing suggested "a narcissistic personality orientation in an individual who has problems with organization and impulse control." Dr. Dyer noted L.J.'s "categorical denial of any problems involving aggressive behavior" even though L.J. "is an aggressive individual with poor impulse control whose interpersonal relations are highly conflicted." In conclusion, Dr. Dyer stated:

The implications of this psychological profile for parenting capacity are quite negative. [L.J.] is seen as lacking the sense of responsibility, capacity for impulse control, sensitivity, and behavioral stability to meet the needs of a young child. It is predicted that any child placed in the care of [L.J.] would be at significant risk of abuse and neglect. Further, even if the child were to be placed in the care of [L.J.], there is a very high likelihood of a disruption of that placement due to a future incarceration or incapacitation of [L.J.] associated with his present lifestyle.

Following a compliance review hearing on May 28, 2002, M.G. was ordered to attend counseling and parenting skills training at the Family Life Education Center (FLEC), and L.J. was ordered to comply with anger management therapy.

M.G.'s second child, Z.J., was born with Downs Syndrome on June 29, 2002. A referral was phoned in to the Division by Gloria Young Brody, a clinician at FLEC, on July 2, 2002, notifying the Division of Z.J.'s birth. On July 11, 2002, M.G. and Z.J. "went into [a] program at the Isaiah[] House," which is a shelter "where the . . . mom and babies can go to receive community resources." Although she was supervised on a twenty-four hour basis at the Isaiah House, M.G. was "allowed to go out for her weekly therapy sessions [at FLEC] and bi-weekly visits . . . to see her son, [N.J.]"

On November 7, 2002, Ms. Brody sent a letter to the Division, updating M.G.'s status with FLEC. Ms. Brody stated that M.G. "has been engaged in therapy since March 2002 and has attended her weekly sessions on a regular basis," and that M.G. "is willing to comply with all that is placed upon her to regain custody of her son, [N.J.]." Further, Ms. Brody had "observed [M.G.'s] caring for [Z.J.], since his birth and he has thrived in his mother's care and continues to progress." Ms. Brody recommended the Division reunify N.J. and M.G., and allow M.G. "to relocate from Isaiah House to her own apartment, once she locates an appropriate location."

At a compliance review hearing on November 12, 2002, custody of N.J. was returned to M.G. and she was ordered to continue attending counseling and parenting skills training at FLEC. Further, L.J., who was incarcerated at that time, was ordered to attend anger management and parenting skills training at FLEC upon his release, and was ordered not to have any contact with M.G. when he was released from jail. At the next compliance review hearing on December 10, 2002, the court dismissed the Division's complaint.

On January 9, 2004, M.G. gave birth to her third child, K.V., a daughter. Neither the Division nor the hospital had any concerns, and M.G. and K.V. left the hospital together. The father of K.V., B.V., was incarcerated when K.V. was born, and he is not involved in this appeal.

On March 10, 2005, the Division was advised that K.V. presented at University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ or University Hospital), on March 9, 2005, with "[s]ubdural hematomas of multiple age," vomiting, forehead contusion and swelling, and retinal bleeding. According to the Division's medical consultant, an MRI showed "an older subdural hematoma over an acute traumatic subdural hygroma. The possibility should be investigated for two traumatic events [rather] than one. . . . An ophthalmology consult was requested which revealed several areas of retinal and sub[-]retinal hemorrhage in the left eye." The consultant concluded that "intracranial bleeding is a rare occurrence from a simple short fall. . . . In summary the history provided to us by caretaker with the injuries revealed is not consistent."

When she was questioned regarding K.V.'s injuries, M.G. stated that she had left K.V. under the supervision of L.J., who was residing on a different floor in her building, while she went to the welfare office. When M.G. returned from the welfare office, she saw L.J. putting an ice pack on K.V.'s head, and [L.J.] "told her that he was washing the dishes when he heard a boom." According to M.G., K.V. was "lethargic, dizzy, and [her] head was floppy," and she began vomiting.

On March 11, 2005, M.G. signed an in-home case plan, in which she agreed to reside with her mother until the Division completed its investigation. She also agreed not to allow any unsupervised contact between the children and L.J. On March 24, 2005, L.S., the children's maternal great aunt, agreed to be the children's primary caretaker.

On March 28, 2005, the Division filed a verified complaint and order to show cause seeking the custody of all three children and, on the same day, the court placed the children in the immediate custody, care, and supervision of the Division. On March 30, 2005, the court placed K.V. with a maternal uncle, but N.J. and Z.J. have continued to reside with L.S., their maternal great aunt, and her husband, M.S.

On April 7, 2005, the Division sent a letter to L.J. notifying him that "[t]he Division's investigation determined that child abuse was substantiated. You have been identified as harming [K.V.] or placing the child at risk of harm," and on April 22, 2005, L.J. was arrested and charged with child endangerment and second-degree assault. In June 2005, M.G. posted bail for L.J.

On March 11, 2005, the Division referred M.G. to the Newark Family Resource for Parent Aide, and on April 18, 2005, M.G. was referred to Johnson and Associates for parenting skills training. In addition, M.G. was scheduled for a psychological evaluation by Dr. Diane McCabe on April 28, 2005. L.J. was also scheduled for a psychological evaluation with Dr. McCabe at the end of April 2005, but was incarcerated at the time of his appointment.

Dr. McCabe's initial evaluation on April 28, 2005, stated M.G. presented "with no significant disorder which would be an immediate risk to her children." However, Dr. McCabe also found that M.G.'s "judgment appears questionable and there is a strong possibility that she will continue to choose men who may be harmful not only to her, but to her children."

In a June 27, 2005, letter, representatives of Johnson and Associates also reported to the Division regarding the status of M.G.'s progress in her parenting skills training. The letter stated M.G. only attended seven of sixteen parenting skills classes "due to the responsibilities she states DYFS has placed on her to find a suitable living area for her children." However, on the seven occasions she attended the class, M.G. was "very attentive in what other members share[d]," and her participation suggested she was "grasping the concepts being taught." Further, the authors of the letter stated "[M.G.] at this time is progressing and beginning to do quite well in the Parenting Skills Class. She realizes the benefits these classes have to offer in being a more responsible parent to her sons."

At an August 9, 2005, compliance hearing, the children were ordered to remain in the custody of M.G.'s respective family members, and M.G. was afforded four hours weekly visitation with her children, supervised by her brother, B.G. On August 30, 2005, M.G. wrote a letter "to whom it may concern," complaining that "DYFS isn't working with me" and Ms. Victoria Kelly, the Division's case manager, "isn't cooperating with me about my visits or therapy." M.G. also alleged that her aunt, L.S., with whom N.J. and Z.J. were residing, was actively attempting to sabotage M.G.'s visitation efforts. A Special Approval Request was signed by the Division on September 2, 2005, authorizing funds for "individual and group therapy as ordered by the court for [M.G.] with Johnson & Assoc[iates]." On September 21, 2005, the court ordered L.S. to have N.J. and Z.J. "ready and waiting for the pick-up" so that M.G. could visit them "between 12:00 P.M. and 4:30 P.M. on Saturdays[,] supervised by [M.G.'s] brother."

On October 4, 2005, the Division, M.G., M.G.'s attorney, the Deputy Attorney General, the children's Law Guardian, Division caseworker Victoria Kelly, and L.S. signed a written consent agreement which provided that: (1) M.G.'s supervised visitation on Saturdays could be "expanded periodically to all day visitation" when L.S. and M.G.'s brother "agreed that same can be arranged"; (2) the Division case manager agreed to investigate whether M.G. "may visit the boys at the day care center that they attend in the afternoon;" (3) the Division agreed to "provide a two[-]zone bus card to [M.G.] to facilitate her ability to visit her children and to comply with other court ordered tasks"; (4) L.S. agreed to invite M.G. to attend parent/teacher conferences and to participate in the boys' play therapy at Mountainside Hospital; (5) L.S. agreed to "continue to inform [M.G.] of important appointments concerning the boys"; and (6) M.G. agreed there was to be "no contact between L.J. and the minor children."

In letters dated October 25 and December 23, 2005, and April 28 and March 8, 2006, M.G.'s therapists at Johnson and Associates supplied updates to the Division on M.G.'s progress in group and individual therapy. For example, the December 23, 2005, letter noted: "It appears [M.G.] has learned how to exercise good judgment when it comes to making important and key decisions about life in general-[e]specially when it pertains to the safety of the family (herself and the children)." Likewise, the April 28, 2006, letter described M.G.'s "good judgment," capability "of accomplishing many of her goals," and improved "outlook regarding her self worth, self-esteem, self-efficacy and value."

On January 12, 2006, Dr. McCabe performed a second psychological evaluation of M.G. During that interview, M.G. insisted she had "no relationship with either of the fathers of her children." In addition, contrary to her earlier statements that L.J. had "choked and smacked her around on several occasions," M.G. denied she ever "fought physically with either of these men." As regards her children, Dr. McCabe noted that "[M.G.] gives the specific disability of her two sons, but even in her descriptions seems distant and uninformed about the nature of their impairment and remedial needs." In terms of care and treatment for N.J. and Z.J. "[s]he says . . . 'I want them to be independent . . . I'm not going to treat them differently . . . I don't look at them as disabled.'"

In her final evaluation of M.G. on September 26, 2006, Dr. McCabe expressed the following concerns:

[M.G.] has displayed evidence of liability in her court behavior and in the emotional pattern of her narrative in interview. Some of the protocols suggest inaccurate perceptions of events, an occurrence which is associated with poor judgment. This may be demonstrated in her tolerance for inappropriate companions and her conservative assessment of the status and needs of her two handicapped children who she plans to treat "no differently[."] Her judgment may not be accurate enough to ensure they receive needed assistance.

While [M.G.] describes her progress in counseling as "fine[,"] she is unable to describe her growth beyond professing increased independence and patience. This mother still tends to shift responsibility to others. During this current interview, when asked why she had previously yelled in court, she had no comment on her behavior but complained that it was because the caseworker didn't like her and said negative things. She explained that she didn't know the programs her children participated in because the foster mother "don't let me know, 'cause we don't speak[."]

Two of the tests, the Child Abuse Potential Inventory and the Personality Assessment Inventory, given on separate dates, were invalidated because of the pattern of responses given by [M.G.] In both cases, the test[s] indicated inconsistent answers or "faking good[."] The latter refers to efforts to present in an improved light by not answering honestly. While there may be more than one factor contributing to this outcome, the possibility of untruthfulness remains one of them and this raises concern about this mother's judgment, again, or leaves unanswered the reason for her unwillingness to bring a cooperative spirit to the process.

It is recommended that this young mother continue in counseling.

At the request of her attorney, M.G. was examined by another psychologist, Dr. Albert R. Griffith, on February 28, 2006. Dr. Griffith's examination revealed that M.G. is "somewhat immature" and has "borderline social judgment and low average social sensitivity." Dr. Griffith noted that while M.G. was aware of the physical conditions of her sons, when asked to describe her children, "[M.G.] did not go beyond their conditions. There was no flavor of her knowledge of their personalities or their needs. . . . Her awareness of their limitations does not exist." Additionally, Dr. Griffith expressed concern regarding M.G.'s judgment because she left K.V. "in the care of a boyfriend who was unemployed, possibly substance abusing and who had been involved in a suspicious accident with her son years before." Ultimately, however, Dr. Griffith concluded that, "[M.G.] is not without ambition and motivation. She has earned the right to 6-12 months more to demonstrate that she can adequately parent these children."

On May 1, 2006, M.G., N.J., and Z.J. had a bonding evaluation with Dr. Elayne Weitz. Dr. Weitz "observed no physical contact or affection between [M.G.] and the boys. The boys showed almost no reaction to being separated from her. . . . [M.G.] made few attempts to provide educational or stimulating play to the children. She seemed unaware of the need to speak more slowly or precisely when talking to the boys." Nevertheless, Dr. Weitz also observed "positive parenting traits" in M.G., such as her attentive supervision.

On May 5, 2006, Dr. Weitz conducted a bonding evaluation with L.S., N.J., and Z.J. Dr. Weitz reported that L.S. "was quite animated in her interactions with the boys. Her play was stimulating and creative." Dr. Weitz's findings and recommendations included the following:

The most salient difference between the boys' reaction to being with their foster mother compared to being with their birth mother emerged following a separation period. The boys' sheer delight upon reuniting with [L.S.] demonstrated that a bond has formed between them. This is not surprising given the devotion and dedication [L.S.] has shown these children. [L.S.] presents as an experienced, competent, and nurturing caretaker. She has taken the time to learn about the boys' individual traits, needs, and skills. When she needed more information, she requested help from the child study team. Her expectations for their behavior and learning capacities are realistic. She is fortunate to have help from her husband, as well as a large network of extended family who serve as supports to her.

In conclusion, I believe there is a good match between [L.S.] and the boys. There is no risk of emotional harm to the boys should [M.G.'s] rights to them be terminated.

Since I believe [L.S.] has the children's best interests at heart, I also believe she will use sound judgment in deciding if and when to resume contact between the birth mother and children should [M.G.'s] rights to them be terminated.

On May 3, 2006, the Division filed an order to show cause and a complaint for guardianship of N.J. and Z.J., alleging it was in their best interests to sever the parental rights of M.G. and L.J. in order to commit the children to the guardianship of the Division for the purpose of adoption. Prior to trial, L.J. was referred to Dr. Mark Singer for a psychological evaluation, which occurred on September 19, 2006. According to Dr. Singer:

When asked about the incident involving his son [breaking] his leg, [L.J.] explained that [N.J.] was being watched by [M.G.] at that time. He denied knowing how the child sustained the injury.

When asked about the incident with [K.V.],

[L.J.] replied, "I was watching her. I was washing the dishes. She ([K.V.]) was getting off the bed and tried to come in the kitchen with me. She just fell. I picked her up. She wasn't crying or nothing."

[L.J.] claimed that he called an ambulance later for the child.

When asked how he disciplines children, [L.J.] replied, "I tell them to stop and go to his room. If it don't work, I'll tell his mother." He denied any use of corporal punishment.

Dr. Singer concluded L.J. "minimizes personal faults and holds an unrealistically positive perception of his level of psychological functioning." The doctor also recommended that

L.J. have supervised visits with his two children and attend parenting skills training. He noted, however, those recommendations were made without knowing if L.J. was definitely involved in K.V.'s injuries and that "[a] situation in which [L.J.] neglected the child may be markedly different from a situation in which he deliberately harmed the child." Finally, Dr. Singer stated that L.J. "appears to have a significant emotional attachment to [M.G.] [L.J.] also reported that they will continue a relationship after this case is over."

Six witnesses testified at the trial, which took place on January 22, 23, 26, and 31, 2007. The six testifying witnesses were: (1) Ms. Michelle Wollik, the Division caseworker between November 2005 and June 2006; (2) Ms. Shamira Briddle, the Division caseworker since August 2006; (3) Dr. McCabe, the psychologist who evaluated M.G. on three separate occasions between April 28, 2005, and September 26, 2006; (4) Dr. Singer, the psychologist who evaluated L.J.; (5) Dr. Elayne Weitz, the psychologist who performed the bonding evaluations; and (6) M.G. On January 31, 2007, the trial court rendered an oral decision terminating M.G.'s and L.J.'s parental rights.

"Appellate review of a trial court's decision to terminate parental rights is limited, and the trial court's findings should not be disturbed unless they are so wholly unsupportable as to result in a denial of justice." In re Guardianship of J.N.H., 172 N.J. 440, 472 (2002) (internal quotations omitted). In this case, the trial court carefully evaluated all of the evidence, and it rendered a comprehensive decision which included individual findings as to each of the parents. Our examination of the record confirms the trial court correctly concluded, by clear and convincing evidence, that the requirements of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a) had been met, and the best interests of the children warranted termination of M.G.'s and L.J.'s parental rights. It is also clear both M.G. and L.J. received a fair trial and there has been no showing that L.J.'s trial attorney was ineffective. See N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. B.R., 192 N.J. 301, 308-09, 312 (2007) (adopting the two-part ineffective assistance of counsel standard enunciated in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed. 2d 674 (1984), and holding parent's representation, "although perhaps not a model," was not ineffective).

Affirmed.

20080211

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