On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FG-13-77-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 23, 2008
Before Judges Winkelstein and Yannotti.
A.J.S. appeals from an order entered on October 24, 2006, which terminated her parental rights to minors J.B. and A.S., and granted guardianship to the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) for purposes of adoption. We affirm.
A.J.S. is the biological mother of J.B. and A.S. D.W. is the biological father of J.B., and K.R. is the biological father of A.S.*fn1 On March 2, 2004, the Division was informed that nine days before, A.J.S. had given birth to J.B. and she was living with the child in a motel and using marijuana. The Division investigated the report. A.J.S. denied using marijuana.
However, the Division learned that after his birth, J.B. was kept an additional week in the hospital because he was suffering from acid reflux, and medication had been prescribed for that condition. The Division also learned that J.B required an apnea monitor for his breathing. When the caseworker returned to the motel in April 2004, she found that the child was not using the monitor or taking the prescribed medication. The caseworker returned for follow-up visits but was unable to locate A.J.S and the child. In October 2004, the Division closed its file.
In February 18, 2005, the Division was informed that A.J.S. gave birth to A.S. the day before. A.J.S. was incarcerated at the time at the Monmouth County Correctional Institute after having been arrested and charged with assault. The Division considered placement of A.S. with her maternal grandmother but found that the grandmother had a history of abuse and there were outstanding warrants for her arrest. The Division's caseworker discussed the matter with A.J.S., who suggested that the A.S. be placed with a family member, L.S. The Division also discovered at this time that A.J.S. had placed J.B. with P.B. shortly after his birth.*fn2
In April 2005, the Division was informed that L.S. had returned the child to A.J.S. without the Division's approval.
L.S. said that she was moving to Pennsylvania and could not care for the child. The Division placed A.S. with her father, K.R. However, A.S. remained with K.R. only four or five days. K.R. requested that the Division remove the child. A.S. then was placed in foster care but when the foster parent became ill, A.S. was placed with P.B. Both children have remained in P.B.'s care since that time.
The Division filed an order to show cause and verified complaint on May 12, 2006, seeking custody of the two children, due to A.J.S.'s history of incarceration, assaultive behaviors and homelessness. The court entered an order granting custody of the children to the Division. Following fact-finding hearings that occurred on October 12, 2005, and November 2, 2005, the court found that A.J.S. had abused and neglected the children as a result of her persistent, untreated drinking problem and assaultive behaviors, and that A.J.S. failed to provide adequate care for the children.
The court conducted a permanency hearing on January 4, 2006. A.J.S. did not attend. The court approved the Division's plan to file a complaint for guardianship because A.J.S. had been non-compliant with services and the children required a permanent placement. The Division filed a complaint on February 27, 2006 seeking guardianship of the children for purposes of foster home adoption.
The matter was tried before Judge Michael A. Guadagno on October 16, 17 and 19, 2006. The Division presented testimony from caseworkers Bernadette Remias-Harris, Ernestine Counts, and Ladeana Hawkins. The Division additionally presented testimony from Dr. Karen D. Wells, a licensed psychologist. Dr. Wells performed a psychological evaluation of A.J.S. as well as evaluations of the bonds between the children and ...