On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division - Family Part, Morris County, Docket No. FG-14-22-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 10, 2008
Before Judges Cuff and Baxter.
D.A. appeals from a February 7, 2008 order that terminated her parental rights to her daughter, D.S.A., born August 7, 2002, and awarded guardianship of the child to the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) for purposes of adoption.*fn1 We affirm.
DYFS involvement with D.A. began on January 18, 2006, when an anonymous caller reported that D.A. and her boyfriend were always "fighting and throwing things around the apartment all night long." The caller also said she could hear a child's voice and realized the child was up all night. The referent reported that the couple and the child were living in a motel after having moved to New Jersey from Ohio a few months earlier.
DYFS opened an investigation. D.A. admitted a longstanding addiction to crack cocaine, but insisted that she had been clean since August 2005. She advised the caseworker that she had left her two older children, ages ten and twelve, with their father in Ohio when she moved to New Jersey. She also admitted that Ohio Child Protective Services had taken custody of a third child immediately following the child's birth, because D.A. was incarcerated. D.A. also acknowledged using drugs at the beginning of her pregnancy with D.S.A.
At the insistence of DYFS, D.A. submitted to a urine drug screen on February 1, 2006. A few days later, after receiving the lab results that showed the presence of cocaine and marijuana, DYFS initiated an emergency removal of the child. DYFS placed her in a foster home, where she has remained ever since. In light of the test results and D.A.'s long history of substance abuse, DYFS recommended in-patient drug treatment, which D.A. refused to even consider. Although she agreed to participate in intensive out-patient drug treatment, she canceled her initial appointment and refused to cooperate.
At a March 30, 2006 compliance review hearing, the judge ordered DYFS to continue to offer out-patient drug treatment and to provide weekly supervised visitation. Such visitation did not occur, however, because in early April 2006, D.A. moved back to Ohio to be nearer to the two children she had left behind. By doing so, she left D.S.A. in New Jersey and forfeited the opportunity for supervised visitation that the court had ordered. From Ohio, D.A. requested telephone contact with her daughter, which DYFS agreed to arrange; however, many of those planned contacts were unsuccessful because D.A. did not have a working telephone.
In fact, D.A. had no contact with DYFS or her daughter between April 2006, when she moved to Ohio, and August 28, 2006. On that day, D.A. contacted her DYFS caseworker and acknowledged a relapse in her cocaine addiction, stating that "the phone had been physically too heavy for her to pick up and that is why she had not reached out to [DYFS]." During that same conversation, D.A. admitted that she had been engaging in prostitution in exchange for cocaine. In response, the caseworker informed D.A. that unless she completed intensive drug treatment, obtained stable housing and was able to submit negative urine screens, she was in danger of losing her daughter. That conversation apparently had an impact on D.A. because by mid-September 2006, she had enrolled in drug treatment at TCN Behavioral Health Services, Inc. (TCN) in Ohio and was also attending AA/NA meetings.
During the summer of 2006, DYFS arranged interstate evaluations of D.A.'s paternal grandparents, her maternal grandfather, two maternal aunts, and a maternal step-aunt and uncle whom D.A. had identified as potential placements. All were ruled out, mainly because they stated they were unable to care for D.S.A.
D.A.'s progress in drug treatment at TCN did not last long, because by December 15, 2006, TCN reported that D.A. had not attended treatment sessions for months. ...