On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FN-02-52-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges S.L. Reisner and Baxter.
Defendant B.B., the mother of twelve-year-old S.B., appeals from an August 31, 2005 order of the Family Part in which the judge found that the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) proved that she abused and neglected her son.*fn1 We affirm.
These are the most pertinent facts. In the early morning hours of July 1, 2005, the Ridgefield Park police department received a telephone call from B.B. in which she asked for police assistance because she and her son were having an argument. Patrolman Chris Thibault responded to that call. He testified that he was familiar with B.B. because he had been to her apartment "five or six times" in the last few months "for family disputes" because B.B. and her son could not get along with each other and were "always arguing." According to Thibault, the two could never seem to resolve issues that were going on at the moment and "we always had to intervene and just calm the situation." When Thibault arrived at the apartment in response to B.B.'s call on July 1, 2005, S.B. had left.
Thibault and other officers advised B.B. that they would look for S.B. in the area and they wanted her to do the same; however, B.B. refused, saying that "she was tired and she wanted to go to sleep."
A little while later, B.B. called police headquarters and reported that her son had returned to the apartment. Thibault then returned and spoke to S.B. While speaking to the child, Thibault noticed that there was a mark on S.B.'s arm. When Thibault asked what had happened, S.B. "said that his mother had bit him." Thibault then asked B.B. about the bite mark. She said that her son "had made this mark himself." Thibault told B.B. that she and her son would have to come to police headquarters, causing her to become "angry and hostile . . . jumping up and down and screaming . . . just acting out irrationally and the situation was escalating." Thibault handcuffed B.B. and took her to headquarters.
DYFS also called Detective Albert Brooks as a witness. Brooks corroborated Thibault's account of numerous prior dealings with B.B. According to Detective Brooks, B.B. often called to complain that the son was being violent, but when police arrived, they found her complaints were not true. According to Brooks, "many times she was pissed off, acting irrational at some points in time, it was just continuous, a multitude of incidents that we've had with her."
Once B.B. and S.B. arrived at police headquarters in the early morning hours of July 1, 2005, Brooks interviewed S.B. about the night's events. The child told him that he and his mother were arguing and she would not let him into the bedroom that they shared. When he tried to force his way in, the two got into a scuffle during which his mother bit him. Brooks saw the bite mark on S.B.'s arm and took photographs to document the injury.
Brooks also saw a bruised area near S.B.'s shoulder. Along the child's neck, Brooks also observed some "abrasion or redness." When Brooks questioned S.B. about the source of those bruises and abrasions, the child reported the abrasion on his shoulder was "an old wound" that "he got when one of B.B.'s friends dragged him across the floor and into the kitchen" because S.B. had refused to do the dishes. When Brooks asked S.B. about the mark on his neck, S.B. "related that he attempted to commit suicide by tying a [bathrobe] rope or some sort of item around his neck and from underneath the bunk-bed area . . . tried to hang himself."
As a result of his own observations, as well as S.B.'s description of having tried to take his own life and of his mother biting him, Brooks called DYFS and asked that a worker be immediately dispatched to the Ridgefield Park police headquarters. Shirley Thankachan was the emergency DYFS worker who responded to Brooks's call. Thankachan interviewed S.B., who told her that his mother bit his arm earlier that night during an argument. Thankachan saw "a four-inch mark" on S.B.'s arm that was "fairly new." Thankachan asked S.B. about the red bruise on his back. S.B. told Thankachan the same thing he had told Detective Brooks, except this time he also stated that "his mother sent him to her boyfriend's house for a ...