On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Warren County, Docket No. FG 21-03-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Winkelstein, Yannotti and LeWinn.
Defendant K.B. appeals from a judgment entered on April 25, 2007, which terminated her parental rights to her son, Ky.B., and awarded guardianship of the child to plaintiff, the Division of Youth and Family Services. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
K.B. is the birth mother of eight children: Sh.B., Ky.B., D.R., K.H., M.H., M.R., D.B. and M.B.T. The Division's first involvement with K.B. and her family occurred in April 1997, when the Division received a report that raised concerns about the health and welfare of the children and the conditions in which they were living. At that time, M.B. was caring for two of her three children, Ky.B. and D.R.*fn1 The referral was the first of many referrals made to the Division raising concerns about the children and the conditions in the home. In the period from February 1, 2000 to December 21, 2003, K.B. gave birth to four other children: K.H., M.H., M.R. and D.B.
On November 17, 2004, the Division filed a verified complaint seeking custody of Ky.B., D.R., K.H., M.H., M.R. and D.B. because the conditions of the home were unsanitary, the children were unkempt, and at times there was insufficient food in the home. The court entered an order on November 17, 2004, granting the Division custody of the children. The court found that the children's continued residence in the home would be inimical to their safety, health and welfare.
On December 2, 2004, Dr. Clarita Obleada conducted a psychiatric evaluation of K.B., and in her report concerning that evaluation, Dr. Obleada noted that K.B. was suffering from chronic depression. Ky.B. and D.R. were returned to K.B. on February 1, 2005, and K.H. and M.H. were returned on May 2, 2005. M.R. and D.B. remained in foster care. The Division's involvement with K.B. and the family continued.
On November 30, 2005, the Division received a referral that the family was homeless. The Division removed the four children from the home and placed them in foster care. On December 2, 2005, the Division filed a verified complaint seeking temporary custody of the children due to the imminent danger posed to them by the family's homelessness. The Division noted that K.B. was about to be arrested for failing to pay certain fines, driving with a suspended license, and issuing checks on accounts with insufficient funds. The court entered an order on December 2, 2005, finding that the children's removal was warranted due to imminent danger to their safety, health and welfare. K.B. was arrested on December 2, 2005, and she was incarcerated in the county jail until January 23, 2006.
On March 3, 2006, Mary Ann Foley, R.N., of Catholic Charities, performed a psychological evaluation of K.B. Foley concluded that K.B. was suffering from major depressive disorder that was in remission. Ms. Foley noted that K.B. had a history of major depression and dysthymic disorder but there was no psychosis. Ms. Foley found that K.B.'s "current insight and judgment are fair." She noted that K.B. tended to "minimize her symptoms" but she had been encouraged "to be aware of any symptoms of depression."
On July 19, 2006, the Division filed a verified complaint in which it sought the termination of K.B.'s parental rights to Ky.B., D.R., K.H. and M.H. On October 28, 2006, K.B. gave birth to another child, M.B.T., who was placed in the Division's custody several days later. On April 4, 2007, the court accepted K.B.'s surrender of her parental rights to D.R., K.H., M.H. and M.R.*fn2
Judge John J. Callahan conducted a trial on the Division's application to terminate K.B.'s parental rights to Ky.B. on April 9, 10, and 11, 2007. Although K.B. was incarcerated at the time of the trial on certain charges including welfare fraud, she appeared and testified. On April 25, 2007, Judge Callahan placed a lengthy oral decision on the record.
The judge initially noted that R.O. was Ky.B.'s birth father and he had been served with a copy of the Division's complaint but thereafter failed to appear in the action. The judge found that the Division had proven by clear and convincing evidence all of the criteria under N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a) for the termination of K.B.'s parental rights. The judge entered an order dated April 25, 2007, terminating K.B.'s ...