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Division of Youth and Family Services v. F.M.K.

September 30, 2008


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, FG-07-175-06.

Per curiam.



Submitted September 9, 2008

Before Judges Parker, Yannotti and LeWinn.

F.M.K. appeals from an order of the Family Part entered on May 9, 2007, terminating her parental rights to four of her seven children, M.K.J., Y.A.J., T.A.J. and D.J.R. The Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) was awarded guardianship of M.K.J., Y.A.J. and T.A.J. A permanency order was entered with respect to D.J.R., awarding kinship legal guardianship (KLG) to the child's paternal uncle. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the order terminating F.M.K.'s parental rights to the four children.

DYFS has been involved with F.M.K.'s family since 1995. The four children who are the subject of this appeal were removed from F.M.K.'s custody on August 11, 2004, when she signed a six-month consent for placement. Prior to the 2004 removal of the children, DYFS had provided various services to F.M.K. including referral for a drug assessment and outpatient services at St. Michael's Medical Center. DYFS also referred F.M.K. to the Mount Carmel Guild for substance abuse and counseling. F.M.K. and the children became homeless in August 2004, as the result of F.M.K.'s non-compliance with the rules and drug treatment program requirements of the shelter in which she and the children had been living.

Two of the children, D.J.R. and M.K.J., were placed together in a shelter. M.K.J. was subsequently placed in a Tri-Cities therapeutic foster home and remained there as of the time of trial. D.J.R. was relocated to several Mentor Therapeutic homes due to behavior problems, including acting out physically with other children and being very disobedient and defiant. As of the time of trial, D.J.R. was receiving medication and intensive therapy from Catholic Charities.

Y.A.J. and T.A.J. were placed together in a Babyland foster home. They also were relocated to several other placements due to their disruptive behavior.

As of the time of trial, the permanency plan for M.K.J., Y.A.J. and T.A.J. was select home adoption. The permanency plan for D.J.R. was KLG with his paternal uncle.

DYFS provided counseling for F.M.K. and her children following their placements and lasting until approximately April 2006, at which time DYFS sought a court order to terminate F.M.K.'s visitation because the DYFS caseworker supervising the visits testified that F.M.K. was negatively influencing the children and her behavior fluctuated between "compliant" and "verbally aggressive."

DYFS provided additional services to F.M.K., including counseling, drug assessments and various drug program referrals. The DYFS caseworker testified that these services failed due to F.M.K.'s chronic non-compliance. Throughout 2005 and 2006, F.M.K. was in and out of numerous drug treatment programs, none of which proved successful due primarily to F.M.K.'s lack of compliance with program requirements.

During this time, DYFS also made efforts to furnish housing to F.M.K. At various times, F.M.K. did obtain apartment housing; however, that housing was eventually lost and F.M.K. returned to shelter placement. In December 2006, F.M.K. advised DYFS that she was residing with an uncle in Pennsylvania. When DYFS attempted to schedule an assessment of F.M.K.'s Pennsylvania residence, however, F.M.K. canceled the appointment. DYFS attempted to re-schedule the home assessment but postponed the date to enable F.M.K. to attend her scheduled drug assessment. However, F.M.K. failed to keep either appointment.

DYFS referred F.M.K. for two psychological evaluations with Dr. Mark Singer in October 2005 and April 2007. In his October 2005 evaluation, Dr. Singer noted F.M.K.'s extensive history of marijuana use, which he regarded as an attempt to self-medicate due to her depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Dr. Singer opined that F.M.K.'s feelings of depression and anxiety, coupled with her lack of an appropriate means of coping ...

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