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Division of Youth and Family Services v. E.M.

May 29, 2008

DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
E.M., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF I.E.Q., A MINOR.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Union County, FG 20-33-06.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 1, 2008

Before Judges Winkelstein and LeWinn.

E.M. is the biological father of I.E.Q., who was born to T.Q. on July 6, 2005. E.M. appeals the order of May 16, 2007, entered after a two-day trial, that terminated his parental rights to I.E.Q.

The Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) removed I.E.Q. from T.Q.'s custody one day after the child's birth. T.Q. did not inform E.M. of I.E.Q.'s birth until approximately one year later. The child has been in the continuous custody of his current foster parents since January 2006.

At trial, T.Q. failed to appear and her parental rights to I.E.Q. were terminated by default. E.M. appeared at trial with counsel, but he presented no witnesses and did not testify.

On appeal, E.M.'s only argument is that DYFS failed to make "reasonable efforts to provide services to help [E.M.] correct the circumstances which led to the child's placement outside the home[.]" N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a)(3). Having reviewed the record, we conclude this claim is without merit and, therefore, we affirm the order terminating E.M.'s parental rights.

Trial commenced on April 18, 2007. As of that date, E.M. had failed to submit to an evaluation by a psychologist his counsel had retained. E.M. requested one additional opportunity to contact the psychologist, Dr. Burr, in order to undergo the evaluation. Arrangements were then made for E.M. to have the evaluation done that day. A DYFS caseworker transported E.M. to Dr. Burr's office in New York City.

Trial resumed on April 25, 2007. At the outset, E.M.'s counsel advised the court that he had "a very long discussion with Dr. Burr" following E.M.'s evaluation and, "as a result of that discussion, . . . Dr. Burr [would] not be called . . . as an expert witness."

Dr. Ernesto Perdomo had conducted a psychological evaluation of E.M. on behalf of DYFS in November 2006. Through Dr. Perdomo's testimony, the following background information was elicited. E.M. was born in El Salvador and illegally emigrated to the United States in the late 1990's. His status remains that of an illegal alien. As of the time of Dr. Perdomo's evaluation, E.M. had had no contact with I.E.Q.

E.M. acknowledged abusing marijuana, cocaine and alcohol. DYFS had referred him to a substance abuse treatment program from which he was later released for noncompliance, when he tested positive for opiates during treatment. Dr. Perdomo opined that E.M.'s "drug problem is deeper and bigger than he acknowledged [it] to be . . . . He was not forthcoming in acknowledging the drug problem as revealed by th[e] test[.]"

E.M. has another child from a prior relationship, who is approximately eleven or twelve years old, and lives in El Salvador. E.M. has "very little contact with this child." Concerning I.E.Q., E.M. told Dr. Perdomo that he ...


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