On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Union County, Docket No. FG-20-89-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 28, 2008
Before Judges Collester and Grall.
An order terminating the parental rights of N.R.L. and C.L. was entered on December 17, 2007. The children's mother, N.R.L., appealed, and the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) and the children's law guardian filed briefs in opposition. C.L. has not appealed.
Clear and convincing evidence supports the finding that N.R.L endangered her children's health and development and remains unable to care for them, despite the Division's extraordinary efforts to reunify N.R.L.'s family. N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1a(1)-(3); In re Guardianship of K.H.O., 161 N.J. 337, 347 (1999). Nonetheless, because the trial court determined that the children's maternal grandmother is unable and unwilling to serve as the children's kinship legal guardian without affording the defense an opportunity to present relevant evidence, we remand for further proceedings. N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. P.P., 180 N.J. 494, 511 (2004).
N.R.L.'s first-born child is emancipated. The four children whose best interests are at issue are G.L., who was born in 1992, C.B.L. and C.N.L., twins who were born in 1995, and C.F.L., who was born in 1997.
With the exception of G.L., N.R.L.'s children have significant physical and emotional problems. C.N.L. has "a very low IQ," has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD") and has sustained self-inflicted injuries.
C.B.L. has been diagnosed with Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome, a type of albinism. She is legally blind and must wear specially tinted eyeglasses because her eyes lack pigmentation. Like her twin sister C.N.L., C.B.L. has attempted to injure herself, and she has been hospitalized because of her mental condition on several occasions and placed in therapeutic group homes.
C.F.L., like his sister C.B.L., has Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome and is legally blind. C.F.L. also suffers from ADHD.
The Division has taken action to protect N.R.L.'s children on several occasions over a course of many years. The children were first removed from N.R.L.'s home in 1996. Shortly thereafter, the children were placed in the home of F.R., their maternal grandmother who resides in Puerto Rico. The children remained in F.R.'s care until they were returned to their parents' home in 1998. The record includes no evidence about the circumstances that led to the reunification.
In 2001, 2002 and 2003, the Division received numerous reports expressing concern about N.R.L.'s children. By way of illustration, the Division responded to information involving N.R.L.'s abuse of cocaine, marijuana and alcohol, bruises, children left without supervision and C.N.L.'s hospitalization as a consequence of injuries sustained when she was struck and dragged by a car. During that period, the Division provided services to the family but did not remove the children.
In March 2004, the children were removed after N.R.L. was arrested. The children were found living in deplorable conditions amidst drug paraphernalia, and ...