On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Passaic County, Docket No. FG-16-26-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Fuentes, Gilroy and Chambers.
In this consolidated action, the mother N.R. and the father J.M. appeal from the order of December 19, 2007, terminating their parental rights to J.R., a son born to them on October 20, 2005. The law guardian for J.R. supports the termination of parental rights. We affirm.
At the time of the child's birth, both parents were incarcerated on federal charges arising from trafficking in illegal aliens. After giving birth, N.R. advised the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) that she planned to place J.R. with B.T., the daughter-in-law of a friend she knew from church. Because N.R. had never met B.T., DYFS questioned this placement, obtained custody of the child, and placed the child in a foster home where he remains.
Shortly after the child's birth, B.T. traveled to New Jersey and met with DYFS personnel explaining that she was willing to take care of the child. She indicated her willingness to comply with the procedures for a DYFS evaluation to have her home approved, and left with DYFS a copy of her and her husband's passport. DYFS never conducted an evaluation of her.
The parents provided the DYFS caseworker with the names of numerous relatives whom they thought might be able to care for the child. Many of these relatives were unable or unwilling to do so. One relative, living in Honduras, already was caring for eleven children. One family in Connecticut eventually expressed a willingness to care for the child, but by the time it obtained the necessary licensing from the Connecticut authorities to do so, the child was already a year old. At that point, DYFS was looking for a placement with caregivers willing to adopt, and this family was unwilling to commit to adoption.
Prior to the child reaching the age of one year, the mother N.R. and the father J.M. each pled guilty to conspiracy to commit forced labor, commission of forced labor, and harboring illegal aliens. Neither had been sentenced by the time of the termination hearing before the trial court, although sentencing was expected to take place within a month. However, due to the nature of the charges, they faced the potential of lengthy prison sentences, although they were hoping to be sentenced to time served. They faced deportation to their native countries upon completion of their sentences. The mother is a native of Honduras, and the father is a native of El Salvador.
The parents were subsequently sentenced in January 2008, less than three weeks after the termination hearings. The mother, N.R., received an aggregate sentence of seventy-eight months with a projected release date of October 10, 2010. The child, J.R., would be about five years old by that time. The father, J.M., received an aggregate sentence of fifty-one months, with a projected release date of October 23, 2008, when the child would have reached the age of three.
At the trial on termination of parental rights, DYFS presented the testimony of a DYFS worker and Ernesto L. Perdomo, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist. The defense presented no witnesses.
Dr. Perdomo conducted psychological evaluations of the parents, N.R. and J.M., and a bonding evaluation of J.R. with his resource parent. He did not conduct a bonding evaluation of the biological parents because the parents were incarcerated. In fact, they had very limited contact with the child due to their incarceration.
Dr. Perdomo found both parents to be free of major psychiatric or mental disorders, although immature. He opined that both were capable of parenting their child; they had positive qualities to help them provide for the child; and they would not present a risk to the child.
Dr. Perdomo found that J.R., who was one and one-half years old at the time of the evaluation, was developing appropriately, and appeared to be "well taken care of." The child was bonded to his resource mother. Dr. ...