On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, FG-02-87-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Grall and Chambers.
Defendant T.S. appeals from the Judgment dated May 11, 2007, terminating her parental rights to her son N.S., born on April 6, 2002, and her daughter H.Z., born on May 25, 2004. Since the record supports the trial judge's findings that the termination of T.S.'s parental rights is in the best interests of the children and that the criteria set forth in N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a) have been met, we affirm.
DYFS first became involved with T.S. and her two children in July 2004, when T.S. and J.Z., the father of H.Z. with whom T.S. was living, were involved in a domestic violence incident that resulted in their arrests for assault. They were referred to a domestic violence program, family counseling and anger management counseling, and the case was closed in September 2004.
Three months later, on the evening of December 3, 2004, N.S., then about two years and eight months old, and H.Z., then about six months old, were found by the police in the apartment alone. T.S. had gone out, leaving the children in J.Z.'s care. J.Z. had stepped down the hall to make a telephone call; however, he did not arrive back at the apartment until nearly an hour after the police had arrived. The DYFS and police reports indicate that the apartment was in deplorable condition, strewn with clothing, garbage, and debris, including dirty diapers, food, empty soda cans, and half-empty juice containers. The apartment had fruit flies, and dirty dishes were in the sink. The children were described as well fed, with no bruises or marks suggesting physical abuse. However, a hospital medical evaluation indicated that the son, N.S., had a bad ear infection and a cold. While medication had been prescribed around November 27, 2004, for the ear infection, it appeared that N.S. had not been getting the regular dosage. The daughter, H.Z., had eczema, a diaper rash, insect bites, and a cold. T.S. and J.Z. were charged with child endangerment. T.S. later pled guilty to child endangerment in the third degree, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a), and was placed on two years probation.
On February 14, 2005, the children were placed with J.A.Z. and S.Z., H.Z.'s paternal grandparents, who live in North Carolina. The children have remained with them since that time. The father's of both N.S. and H.Z. have executed identified surrenders of parental rights to their respective children with the understanding that J.A.Z. and S.Z. would adopt them.
The psychological evaluations of T.S. conducted for DYFS indicate that T.S. has substantial psychological and emotional problems. The psychological evaluation of T.S. conducted on April 5, 2005, by Dr. Kenneth M. Schulman, a licensed psychologist, states that T.S. is "less capable than most of dealing effectively with everyday experiences, especially in relation to social and interpersonal situations. She was found to have a limited capacity to establish emotionally close relationships with others." The doctor found her personality to be consistent with a Histrionic Personality Disorder with obsessive-compulsive and narcissistic traits, and he strongly recommended psychotherapy for her.
Various services were provided to T.S. by DYFS, including parenting classes and counseling, transportation to see the children in North Carolina, and referrals to housing resources. By the time of the trial in March 2007, T.S. had been able to find employment, but she was still unable to find stable housing.
On December 18, 2006, more than a year and a half after Dr. Schulman's evaluation and after T.S. had availed herself of the various counseling and therapy resources provided through DYFS, Dr. Charles E. Daly, a licensed psychologist, conducted another psychological evaluation of T.S. He noted T.S.'s troubled past, and found that she "does not have the ability to form deep and lasting relationships with others." Although he found that she would never deliberately cause physical or emotional harm to the children, he opined that giving her custody of the children "would be a grave error and would expose [N.S.] and [H.Z.] to a level of enduring harm from which they would not easily recover and which would most likely be permanent." His report also states that T.S. readily admitted to him that she was unable to provide her children with the necessary emotional, financial and structural support.
Dr. Daly also conducted a bonding evaluation of T.S. and the two children on October 31, 2006. He found that no bond existed between T.S. and her daughter H.Z., and that a "minimal and dysfunctional" bond existed between T.S. and her son N.S. Dr. Daly's bonding evaluation of J.A.Z. and S.Z., conducted that same day, indicates that J.A.Z. and S.Z. have an adequate bond with the children and that the children "certainly feel a sense of safety, security and structure with them."
The trial on the termination of T.S.'s parental rights was held on March 26, 2007. The DYFS caseworker on the file and Dr. Daly testified for DYFS. Defendant neither testified nor presented any witnesses. The law guardian for the ...