On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Somerset County, No. FG-18-106-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Wefing and Collester.
J.B. appeals from a judgment entered by the trial court terminating his parental rights to his daughter, K.S.*fn1 After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
K.S. was born on November 1, 2004, and is now approximately three and one-half years of age. Although T.S. has several other children, none of whom are in T.S.'s care and none of whom were the subjects of the proceedings below, K.S. is J.B.'s first child. It was T.S.'s conduct which led to a referral to the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) with respect to K.S. K.S. was removed from T.S.'s care in January 2005, when she was two and one-half months old. J.B. was incarcerated at the time.
DYFS considered J.B.'s mother, C.H., as an emergent placement for the baby. C.H. said she was willing to care for K.S. and told DYFS she was already caring for two other of her grandchildren. In the course of doing its background check, DYFS was advised by the New Brunswick Police Department that an arrest had recently been made at C.H.'s house for narcotics-related activity. Based upon that, K.S. was placed temporarily in foster care.
DYFS began the process of exploring the possibility of other relative placements. None of these proved viable. According to the record and the testimony accepted as credible by the trial court, C.H. told DYFS during this period that she had changed her mind and could not care for K.S. in light of her other responsibilities.
J.B., upon learning of the events that had transpired, corresponded with DYFS and the trial court, expressing his desire that K.S. reside with his mother, C.H. C.H. at that point expressed her willingness to care for K.S., and K.S. was placed in her care in March 2005. C.H. did take K.S. to visit with J.B. at least once during this period, because he remained in custody.
On May 3, 2005, however, custody of K.S. was shifted, pursuant to an order entered by the trial court, from C.H. to T.S. who by that time had entered a substance abuse program at Straight and Narrow directed to the needs of mothers with problems of addiction.
J.B. was released from custody the following day and resided with his mother. He said he visited with K.S. three times at Straight and Narrow.
J.B. has an admitted substance abuse problem. He has used marijuana, cocaine and heroin but has said he prefers alcohol. A large portion of his criminal history relates to his use of illegal drugs. J.B. was incarcerated for large portions of the FN litigation and for the entire period of the FG litigation.*fn2
DYFS recognized that the first element to which J.B. had to attend was dealing with his substance abuse problems. It sent him three separate notifications that it had scheduled substance abuse evaluations for him to attend, but J.B. did not respond to any of the three. J.B. said he did not attend the first scheduled evaluations because he had bronchitis. He provided no explanation, however, for his failure to respond in any way to the succeeding notifications. He made no effort to remain in contact with ...