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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. R.F.

February 21, 2008

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
R.F., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF S.J.F., A MINOR.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FG-04-86-07.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted February 4, 2008

Before Judges A.A. Rodríguez, C.S. Fisher and C.L. Miniman.

The Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) brought this action, seeking the termination of defendant R.F.'s parental rights to her daughter, S.J.F., who was born on February 22, 2004.*fn1 Following a non-jury trial, Judge Lee B. Laskin rendered a written decision and entered judgment in favor of the Division. In appealing, defendant argues that the decision to terminate her parental rights was against the weight of the evidence and failed to meet the requirements of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1. We find no merit in defendant's arguments and affirm.

At the conclusion of the trial, the judge rendered a written decision, which included many factual findings and which thoroughly described the application of his factual findings to the four prongs of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1. For there to be a termination of parental rights, this statute requires that the Division prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that:

(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 . . .;

(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. See also N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. A.W., 103 N.J. 591, 604-05 (1986).

The testimony and other evidence adduced at trial reveals that, at birth, the child tested positive for cocaine and opiates. She was also then suffering from withdrawal symptoms and classified as a medically fragile infant. Following the hospital's referral, the child was removed from defendant's care soon after birth.

The record demonstrated that defendant had a significant history with the Division and a longstanding history of drug abuse and incarceration that preceded the child's birth.*fn2 To support her drug addiction, defendant unlawfully sold controlled dangerous substances (CDS) and, beginning in 1995, was convicted on three separate occasions of drug-related charges. The month after the child's birth, defendant was arrested for possession and distribution of CDS. On July 8, 2004, defendant pled guilty to possession of CDS within 1,000 feet of school property and was sentenced to a three-year prison term. She was ...


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