On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FG-13-76-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 8, 2008
Before Judges Stern, A. A. Rodríguez and Waugh.
In these consolidated appeals N.S. (birth father) appeals from a judgment of guardianship terminating his right to M.D.S., a two-year-old girl, and L.A.C. (birth mother) appeals from the same judgment of guardianship terminating her parental rights to A.F., a four-year-old girl, and M.D.S. The judgment also terminated the parental rights of A.F.'s father, Q.F. He does not appeal. L.A.C. and N.S. argue that the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) failed to carry its burden of proof. We affirm.
A.F. was born prematurely on March 22, 2004. Three months after her birth, L.A.C. left A.F. with a woman she had met earlier that day, with no provisions for the infant and no contact number. The following day, the woman took A.F. to Towanna Gandy, with whom L.A.C. was living. Gandy called DYFS. Gandy offered to take custody of the child but a background check revealed that Gandy's son died from asphyxiation while in her care. DFYS removed A.F. from Gandy's home. On the day of her removal, A.F. was diagnosed with thrush, had fluid-filled cysts under both nipples and, due to being born premature, had weak reflexes and was developmentally delayed. A.F.'s body weight was below the fifth percentile. It was subsequently discovered that A.F. had not been immunized. DYFS placed A.F. in a foster home.
DYFS could not make contact with L.A.C. until three days later. At that time, DYFS learned that L.A.C.'s older child was living with L.A.C.'s mother. DYFS ran a background check on the maternal grandmother and discovered that she was listed on the DYFS perpetrator list for two prior incidents. This older child was subsequently placed with his paternal grandparents and remains there to this day. His placement is not at issue in the present appeal. That same day, a judge granted DYFS custody of A.F.
L.A.C.'s mother expressed her desire not to be considered a placement option for A.F.
On June 21, 2004, a nurse evaluated A.F. and diagnosed her as being medically fragile. A.F. suffered from severe reflux and it was recommended that she be placed in a home trained in reflux precautions. DYFS placed A.F. in such a home and she remains there today. The foster parents have expressed a desire to adopt A.F.
L.A.C. was advised that the return of A.F. to her custody was premised on L.A.C. attending parenting classes, receiving psychological evaluations, and finding stable housing. L.A.C. was unable to obtain stable housing throughout the remainder of 2004. During the next six months, L.A.C.'s attendance at appointments, visitations with her daughter, and responsiveness to DYFS was sporadic. L.A.C. visited A.F. three times between her removal in June and the end of November. A.F.'s paternal grandmother attended the visits and requested the opportunity to arrange bi-weekly visits with her granddaughter.
A.F.'s health improved while in foster care. She gained weight despite her reflux. A.F. was declassified as medically fragile at eight months of age.
L.A.C. informed DYFS that she had registered to take parenting classes through the Jewish Family and Children's Services. However, she never attended the classes. During the spring of 2005, L.A.C. missed two appointments with the court-appointed ...