On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FG-13-84-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Parker and Gilroy.
Defendant D.E. appeals from a judgment of guardianship entered on October 5, 2007 terminating her parental rights to her son, T.H.
T.H. was born on November 29, 2005. Although T.H.'s birth certificate does not name a father, the evidence indicates that T.A.H. is the child's biological father. T.A.H. contested paternity but failed to appear for a paternity test. He did not appear to contest termination of parental rights and is not a party to this appeal.
D.E. is developmentally disabled and mildly retarded. She has a long history of substance abuse and has been involved with the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) since 1987. She has two other children who are in the legal custody of her family members. The two older children are not parties to this litigation. Nevertheless, the history of the older children is relevant to this case.
On October 18, 2005, DYFS received a referral from the Matawan Middle School, stating that D.E.'s daughter, J.F., was frequently absent and had been diagnosed with depression. When DYFS investigated the referral, they found that D.E.'s home was dirty with rabbit feces and discarded food "about a foot high on the floor, dirty clothes, clutter, videotapes all over, so bad that the worker couldn't even walk through the house." DYFS determined that the house was not a safe or fit place for the child and J.F. was removed to foster care. During the course of that investigation, DYFS observed that D.E. was approximately eight months pregnant.
Three weeks later, on November 11, 2005, it was reported to DYFS that D.E. tested positive for drugs. A few weeks after the positive drug test, on November 9, 2005, D.E. gave birth to T.H. and DYFS initiated a notice of emergency removal pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.28 and 9:6-9.30. DYFS was granted immediate custody of the child and placed him in foster care on December 1, 2005. Thereafter, DYFS filed an order to show cause and on the return date of January 5, 2006, D.E. was granted supervised visitation.
On March 14, 2006, Alan J. Lee, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist, examined D.E. on behalf of DYFS. He reported that D.E. was a forty-two-year-old single mother of three children from three different relationships. After administering a number of tests, Dr. Lee determined that D.E. has "some notable cognitive and intellectual limitations and deficits." The test results indicated a functional IQ of 60 "falling in the intellectually deficient classification."
Dr. Lee found D.E. "rather impulsive, poorly organized, and emotionally reactive and even explosive." With respect to parenting, Dr. Lee found that "[m]any of her deficits are essentially chronic, enduring, and lifelong, and she continues to present with some notable deficits that preclude her ability to consistently, effectively, or appropriately care for minor children." He recommended that D.E. be referred to the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) for services, support and consideration for group home living. He further indicated that if D.E. is to have contact with children, it should be supervised.
Thereafter, DYFS referred D.E. to a number of treatment facilities and a parenting training class. She testified at trial, however, that no services had been provided for her. She did, however, acknowledge that she went to the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) for drug testing, but she did not participate in any drug treatment programs. She further acknowledged in her testimony that DYFS sent a counselor to her home to assist with parenting skills.
DYFS provided supervised visitation for D.E. and T.H. On numerous occasions, however, D.E. failed to appear for the visits and did not notify DYFS in ...