On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Sussex County, Docket No. FG-19-15-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges S. L. Reisner and Gilroy.
S.A., the biological mother of M.R., a girl born January 2, 2002, and C.S., M.R.'s biological father, appeal from the April 27, 2007, order of the Family Part, terminating their parental rights to their daughter.*fn1 Both parents also appeal from the May 30, 2007, order, which denied their motion, seeking an order "directing the [New Jersey] Division of Youth and Family Services [(DYFS)] to change the Permanency Plan from termination of parental rights to kinship legal guardianship [(KLG)]."*fn2 We affirm.
At the time of M.R.'s birth, both parents were incarcerated. Although S.A. was released from jail following M.R.'s birth, C.S. remained incarcerated. S.A. continues to suffer from a chronic substance abuse addiction to heroin. On August 23, 2002, S.A. married D.A.
DYFS's first involvement with S.A. occurred in January 2002, when it received a referral advising that S.A. had given birth to M.R. while incarcerated. S.A. indicated to DYFS that she desired her parents to have custody of M.R. because they already had legal custody of her oldest daughter, K.C.; accordingly, DYFS did not become involved with the family at that time. Subsequently, as a result of a custody hearing following S.A.'s request for the return of her children, K.C. remained in the care and custody of her maternal grandparents, while M.R. was returned to the care and custody of S.A.
On February 3, 2005, DYFS received a referral from the West Orange Police Department, advising that D.A. had been arrested for purchasing heroin, after leaving C.A. in the backseat of a motor vehicle within reach of a handgun. While in police custody, D.A. contacted S.A., requesting her to come to the police station to pick up C.A. On arrival, S.A. admitted to the police that she had used heroin as recently as three weeks prior. Fresh needle track marks were noted on S.A.'s arm. A DYFS special unit response worker responded to the request of the police station and interviewed S.A. S.A. again not only admitted to using drugs, but also stated that heroin was the drug of her choice. Following background checks into both parents, DYFS removed M.R. and C.A. from S.A.'s and D.A.'s custody.
On the same day, DYFS completed an internet search on C.S.'s whereabouts, and determined that he was incarcerated at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility, Yardville. On February 7, 2005, DYFS was granted the care, custody, and supervision of both M.R. and C.A.
In June 2005, DYFS received a letter from C.S., requesting that M.R. be placed with B.R. and R.R., his daughter's maternal grandparents. On August 8, 2005, DYFS received a phone call from B.R., stating that S.A. had been in the Sussex County Jail since August 5, 2005, for violating probation and that she was unaware when her daughter would be released. On August 24, 2005, DYFS placed both children with their maternal grandparents as caregivers.
On November 14, 2005, S.A. pled guilty to violation of probation, and was sent to the Epiphany House, Long Branch, a transitional recovery home for chemically-addicted women. The program lasts from six to twelve months. On January 27, 2006, following a negotiated plea agreement with the Essex County Prosecutor, D.A. was sentenced to three years of probation on drug and weapon convictions.
On January 27, 2006, DYFS presented a permanency plan to the trial court stating that its goal was to proceed to a guardianship proceeding against S.A., D.A., and C.S. On the same day, the trial court accepted the permanency plan and dismissed the initial protective services complaint. Lastly, on that day, DYFS filed a complaint for guardianship with respect to M.R. and C.A. On June 14, 2006, the parties engaged in mediation, agreeing that joint legal and physical custody of C.A. was to be returned to S.A. and D.A., effective July 7, 2006. S.A., who was in the Epiphany House, was granted physical and legal custody of M.R. A confirming order was entered the same day, which dismissed the guardianship complaint and reopened the protective services complaint.
On August 10, 2006, DYFS received a referral, advising that S.A. had missed an appointment at the Epiphany House on August 8, 2006. The report stated that a program representative had gone to S.A.'s home, and that S.A. had refused to provide the representative with a urine sample. On August 11, 2006, the trial court reviewed the matter and determined that S.A. had relapsed into drug abuse and had left the substance abuse program. At ...