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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. C.M.

March 13, 2009

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
C.M. AND J.E.H., SR., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF Y.M., A MINOR.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FG-04-122-07.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted February 9, 2009

Before Judges R. B. Coleman, Sabatino and Simonelli.

The Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) brought this action, seeking the termination of the parental rights of defendants C.M., the biological mother, and J.E.H., the biological father, to their daughter, Y.M. (Yolanda),*fn1 born January 29, 2006. Following a non-jury trial, Judge Donaldson rendered a written decision and entered judgment in favor of the Division. On appeal, C.M. and J.E.H. challenge the judge's conclusion that the Division satisfied all four prongs of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1a. We affirm.

The following facts are summarized from the record. In addition to Yolanda, C.M. and J.E.H. are the biological parents of another daughter, L.M.H. (Lisa), born November 16, 2003.

C.M. is also the biological mother of two other children, M.A.M. (Michael), born December 2, 1998, and J.E.H., Jr. (James), born October 16, 2004. On February 22, 2006, C.M.'s parental rights to Lisa, Michael and James were involuntarily terminated; and J.H. voluntarily surrendered his parental rights to Lisa.

The Division became involved with C.M. in September 2001, after receiving a referral that her one-year-old niece, who was in her care, suffered second-degree burns to the lower half of her body by scalding water in a bathtub. C.M.'s then-husband was convicted of aggravated assault and incarcerated as a result of this incident. There were also issues of domestic violence between C.M. and her husband. The Division removed the niece and Michael, who also was in C.M.'s care, from the home and obtained custody of them.

A psychological evaluation on January 30, 2002, revealed that C.M.:

[L]acks impulse and is covertly hostile and aggressive towards others. She accepts responsibility for her poor judgment and consequent behavior, with regard to allowing domestic violence to continue, although she appears helpless as to change the situation. Her parenting skills are within the low average range, although she is not assertive in her ability to protect her children from themselves or others.

It was recommended that C.M. engage in intensive individual therapy and parenting skills training, and become involved in a program for battered women. The Division returned Michael and the niece to C.M. after she completed parenting skills classes and domestic violence counseling.

In September 2002, the Division again became involved with C.M. after receiving a referral that she physically and verbally abused Michael. She allegedly punched Michael in the back, took him to a store in his underwear and without shoes, and made him walk on broken glass. C.M. agreed to attend Genesis counseling to address her parenting skills.

C.M. began living with J.E.H., who had a history of violent behavior, regular drug use and selling drugs. In September 2003, the Division received a referral from a hospital that J.E.H. had physically abused Michael. On October 23, 2003, the Division removed Michael from the home, obtained custody of him, and placed him with the maternal grandmother. The Division later obtained custody of Lisa after that child's birth on November 16, 2003, and placed her into a foster home. Thereafter, the Division offered numerous services to C.M. and J.E.H.

Facts Relating to C.M.

C.M. was initially non-compliant with the services the Division offered, but eventually complied with most of the Division's recommendations. She attended a psychological evaluation on January 13, 2004, which revealed that she had an IQ of 76, "indications of emotional dysfunction namely impulsivity and anxiety[,]" "a strong tendency towards non-compliance[,]" "a relatively high level of anger that she, at times, has a difficult time controlling[,]" and that ...


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