On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FG-07-339-04.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Yannotti and LeWinn.
L.M. appeals from an order entered by the Family Part on February 20, 2007, which terminated her parental rights to two minor children, M.S. and J.M., and awarded guardianship of the children to plaintiff, the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division). We affirm.
M.S. was born on December 25, 1996, and his sister J.M. was born on December 11, 1997. L.M. is the birth mother of these two children, and L.S. is their birth father. L.M. and the children initially resided in New York City and were under the supervision of New York's Administration for Children's Services (ACS). L.M. was diagnosed with severe depression and borderline personality disorder and in August 1999, the children were removed from her care.
The children were returned to L.M. in April 2000, after she complied with out-patient psychiatric treatment and accepted homemaker services. However, the children's reunification with L.M. was contingent upon her attending counseling, taking her medication, cooperating with homemaker services, and following through with services for M.S., who previously had been found to be violent and aggressive.
In May 2001, the ACS again removed the children from L.M.'s care when she was admitted to the psychiatric unit at Brookdale Hospital after she had become enraged while waiting in the emergency room for medical attention. L.M. was diagnosed with organic mania, rule-out bipolar mania,` and hyperthyroidism. She was discharged from the hospital with prescriptions for three mental health medications, specifically Depokote, Respidal and Propranolol. After a court hearing, the judge permitted the children to be returned to L.M.'s care on the condition that she take her prescribed medication and attend a day-program. The children were returned on June 19, 2001.
In October 2001, the ACS received a report that L.M. had entered a hospital with abdominal pains and brought the children with her to the hospital. The ACS also learned that L.M. had no medical insurance. In November 2001, L.M.'s psychiatrist reported that she seldom kept her appointments. L.M. also missed many appointments with her therapist. The homemaker reported that L.M. had used some of the family's food money to purchase clothes and a bottle of liquor. L.M. denied those allegations, but admitted that she had not had her prescriptions re-filled because her Medicaid benefits had not been activated. In December 2001, L.M. refused homemaker services and mental health therapy. At that time, L.M. again admitted that she had not been taking her prescribed medication.
In March 2002, L.M. left her publicly-subsidized apartment for a shelter in the Bronx because she felt threatened by L.S., her landlord, and the neighbors. L.M. was scheduled to appear in court on a domestic violence complaint that she filed against L.S. but when she saw L.S. in court, she left and went to her mother's home in Irvington, New Jersey. The ACS contacted the Division and asked the Division to check on the family. The Division found no evidence of abuse or neglect but opened a case for supervision and arranged for the housing of L.M. and the children in a shelter in Newark.
The Division remained involved and provided services in an effort to keep the family intact. In April 2003, the Newark Police Department informed the Division that L.M. left the children alone at Harmony House, a transitional living facility, where the family was living. L.M. admitted that she left the children unattended while she went to have a few drinks with her friends. In May 2003, the Division removed the children from L.M.'s care because she had not been compliant with her mental health treatment, failed to renew prescriptions for her medications, and had rejected home aide services.
On May 20, 2003, the Division filed a protective services complaint and on that date, Judge Craig R. Harris entered an order authorizing the immediate removal of the children. The children were placed with their maternal grandmother; however, in August 2003, the children were removed from the maternal grandmother's home after she reported that L.M. had engaged in certain harassing behavior. Consequently, the children were placed in separate foster homes. In February 2004, the children were placed together in another foster home.
On May 20, 2004, the Division filed a complaint seeking the termination of L.M.'s and L.S.'s parental rights. Thereafter, the children's foster mother asked that the children be removed from her care because they had been disruptive. The children again were placed in separate foster homes. In November 2005, the children were placed with their paternal grandparents in ...