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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. D.J.H.

July 7, 2009


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Cape May County, Docket No. FG-05-22-07.

Per curiam.



Submitted June 1, 2009

Before Judges R. B. Coleman and Simonelli.

Defendant D.J.H., Sr. appeals from an order of the Family Part, dated June 12, 2008, which terminated his parental rights to his son D.J.H., Jr. (David),*fn1 and awarded guardianship of the child to the Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division or DYFS) to consent to adoption. Based on our careful review of the record, we conclude that there is ample evidence to support the challenged order.*fn2 We affirm.

We summarize the relevant facts from the testimony of witnesses and documents admitted into evidence. Defendant and R.B. are the biological parents of David, born February 4, 1999. The Division first became involved with this family on May 19, 1999, when the New York Child Protective Services reported that defendant and R.B. had moved to New Jersey with David. At that time, there was a restraining order in New York, prohibiting defendant from having contact with David because defendant took David to a known crack house, purchased drugs and went to a park to use the drugs.

Defendant was incarcerated on October 31, 2005 for violating probation related to a prior arrest for possession of stolen property. Defendant left six-year-old David in the care of D.D., defendant's paramour. On November 18, 2005, the Wildwood Police Department raided D.D.'s home and found crack, cocaine and marijuana. Because D.D. was arrested and R.B.'s whereabouts were unknown, the Division took custody of David and placed him in foster care.

For the next thirty-one months that David was in foster care, defendant spent about twenty-two months in jail. During the nine months when he was not incarcerated, his contact with the Division was inconsistent and his participation in services was limited. On March 7, 2006, the court entered a judgment of neglect against defendant, who was released from jail shortly after and began supervised visitations with David. Defendant did not appear at the April 20, 2006, compliance review; but the court, nevertheless, ordered that defendant partake in psychiatric and substance abuse evaluations, which were scheduled for May 3, 2006.

On May 3, 2006, David M. Friel, M.D., completed a psychiatric evaluation of defendant. He did not diagnose defendant with a psychiatric illness and noted that defendant denied substance abuse. Dr. Friel determined that defendant "should follow the rules set forth by [the Division]," and that defendant was not a danger to himself or others. He recommended that David should be returned to defendant once defendant met all of the Division's criteria.

On June 19, 2006, defendant and D.D. were involved in a domestic dispute where defendant pushed D.D., causing her to fall over a railing and break her ribs. On July 8, 2006, the Middle Township Police Department arrested and later released defendant in connection with this altercation. Upon learning of the occurrence, a Division caseworker recommended that defendant attend either anger management or domestic violence classes. Defendant replied by cursing at the worker.

On June 28, 2006, defendant failed to appear in court for a compliance review. The court ordered defendant to undergo a psychological, a psychiatric and a substance abuse evaluation, enter into substance abuse treatment, and submit to random urine screenings.

On August 27, 2006, defendant and D.D. were involved in another physical altercation. Defendant admitted to pushing D.D. into a table. In addition to being arrested for this incident, defendant had two outstanding warrants. Because defendant could not make bail, he was transferred to Cape May County Jail, where he remained until November 2006.

On September 6, 2006, a Division caseworker met with defendant at the Cape May County Jail. The caseworker discussed possible relatives who might take custody of David, and explained that defendant's mother had not returned the caseworker's calls. The caseworker instructed defendant to contact the Division as soon as he was released from jail.

On September 20, 2006, the court ordered defendant to submit to domestic violence/anger management treatment, and it continued defendant's visitation. On November 16, 2006, defendant was sentenced to eighty-three days of incarceration in the county jail, in relation to the June 19, 2006 domestic violence incident, however, he was given credit for the eighty-three days he had previously served and was released.

On November 22, 2006, a Division caseworker and intern visited defendant, unannounced, at the motel where he was residing. Defendant explained that Social Services was paying for the room, and that he planned to obtain employment. The caseworker discussed the various services that defendant had to complete, such as drug and alcohol evaluation and anger management classes. Defendant informed the caseworker that he was no longer with D.D., and that he would like to obtain custody of David.

Subsequently, defendant missed two appointments for a drug evaluation and two scheduled visits with David. In addition, in January 2007, defendant's new paramour, H.H. reported to the police that he punched her in the face twice, following her refusal to have sex with him. Her injuries required stitches. While investigating the incident, the police found marijuana and crack cocaine in defendant's motel room. Also, on March 16, 2007, a woman by the name of A.W. reported to the police that defendant physically and sexually assaulted her. Later that month, the Division learned that defendant was in prison for two counts of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated assault causing bodily injury. This prompted the Division to file the instant guardianship action.

The Division pursued possible placement of David with relatives, however, the paternal grandmother stated that she could not care for David due to her work schedule. One of defendant's sisters was ruled out due to her criminal history. Defendant's other sister also was ruled out due to insufficient space in her home. The Division ...

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