On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, No. FG-09-158-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 2, 2008
Before Judges Wefing and LeWinn.
N.C. appeals from a judgment terminating her parental rights to her twin daughters, D.I.C. and D.A.C. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
D.I.C. and D.A.C. were born on June 7, 2005. N.C. has not had the care and custody of the girls since August 31, 2005, when the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) effected an emergency removal. N.C. has five other children, none of whom are in her care. They are: N.J., a daughter, now emancipated and a resident of Virginia; H.C. Jr., a son, now seventeen, who resides with N.J.; D.R.C., a daughter born in April 2000 who died from complications caused by shaken baby syndrome; and R.P., a son, now nearly seven years old, who resides with his father. Shortly after the trial court gave its decision in this matter, N.C. gave birth to another child, D.M.C., who was placed in the custody of the Virginia Department of Social Services.
When H.C. Jr. was an infant, he resided in Virginia with his mother. While in N.C.'s care, he suffered serious injuries on several occasions, including retinal hemorrhages and subdural hematomas. Virginia's Child Protective Services removed H.C. and placed him temporarily in foster care. After he was returned to N.C., the agency received another referral after she was seen beating the child in the head. Following a determination of physical abuse, a Virginia court in December 1997 awarded custody of H.C., Jr., to N.C.'s mother M.J. In 2004, M.J. decided to return the boy to N.C. He was living with her in August 2005 when DYFS made the emergency removal. As noted earlier, he now lives in Virginia with his half-sister under a kinship legal guardianship arrangement, and he is not a subject of this appeal.
In May 2000, when D.R.C. was approximately one month old, she was admitted to the hospital in Virginia with bilateral retinal hemorrhaging and severe brain damage, attributed to shaken baby syndrome. She was placed on life support machines and remained in a persistent vegetative state from her admission until her death in June 2004. At one point, N.C. was observed changing the settings on the machines that controlled the infant's breathing. At other times, she would fall asleep on top of the baby. N.C. left Virginia in March 2001, leaving no forwarding address or phone number; before the child's death in 2004, she returned on one occasion to visit the hospital.
N.C.'s third child, R.P., was born on January 21, 2002, and lived with his mother in New York until he also was removed from her custody. When R.P. was approximately eighteen months old, the New York Family Court placed custody with R.P.'s father, finding that he had suffered a fractured rib while in his mother's care and that she used drugs in his presence.*fn1 The order entered by the New York court prohibited N.C. from contact with R.P. in the absence of child protective services.
Less than two years later, D.I.C. and D.A.C. were born in Jersey City. When New York learned that N.C. had moved to New Jersey with H.C. Jr. and had given birth to D.I.C. and D.A.C., it contacted DYFS, which proceeded to make an emergency removal.
The trial in this matter was brief. DYFS presented two witnesses, Vanessa Merced, the case worker for D.I.C. and D.A.C., and Dr. Donna LoBiondo, a psychologist. Dr. LoBiondo testified that N.C. had refused to take the tests Dr. LoBiondo had selected to assist her in making a diagnosis, saying that she had taken psychological tests before and she considered them prejudiced against her. Based upon her interview of N.C. and a review of the pertinent records, Dr. LoBiondo reached the conclusion that N.C. had a personality disorder and displayed "significant evidence of narcissistic functioning." Dr. LoBiondo also observed the two girls with N.C. and with their foster mother and described the differences she observed in the girls' interaction with the two women.
[T]he foster mother seems to have a gentler style that's peppered with a lot of play as a strategy to get the children feeling comfortable enough to learn things, try new things and interact.
[N.C.] appears to have a style that is somewhat more demanding. There's more of an agenda focused quality to it. There seems to be a determination on her part to get results rather than to put herself in the children's shoes and devise a strategy around where they're at so to speak in order to get the same thing. So there's a ...