On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Mercer County, Docket No. FG-11-03-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 24, 2009
Before Judges Gilroy and Simonelli.
Defendant T.B. appeals from the December 15, 2008 judgment of guardianship terminating her parental rights to her children, A.R.C., Jr. (Aaron), born July 5, 2004, and D.D.C.-B. (David), born September 30, 2005.*fn1 The judgment also terminated the parental rights of the children's biological father, A.R.C., Sr. He did not appeal.*fn2
We briefly summarize the facts from the record. Defendant first became involved with plaintiff Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division) in September 2004. Since then, she has failed to obtain secure, safe and stable housing for the children, has been unemployed,*fn3 and has not addressed the children's special needs. Defendant also failed to comply with the numerous services the Division and other agencies offered, including psychological and domestic violence counseling, anger management, parenting skills classes, and vocational training and employment assistance. She also squandered numerous housing placements.
Aaron suffers from developmental delays, and several medical conditions, including spina bifida, asthma and a kidney defect. He has been diagnosed as "medically fragile," and receives speech, language and occupational therapies, and treatment from several medical specialists. The child did not live with defendant for the first seven months of his life, and he has been in foster care since he was eighteen months old. Since April 2006, he has been with his present foster parents. Although the foster parents initially agreed to Kinship Legal Guardianship (KLG), they changed their minds and now want to adopt the child.
David has speech problems. He has been in foster care since his shortly after his birth in September 2005. Since December 2005, he has been with his present foster mother, who wants to adopt him.
Prior to the termination trial, defendant consistently visited the children. However, she never offered any maternal family members as placement alternatives, and the family friends and paternal relatives she offered were unsatisfactory due to either their criminal histories or their previous involvement with the Division. Defendant also offered no viable permanent plan for reunification.
Defendant's psychological evaluations reveal both her inability to care for herself, much less her special needs children, and the risk that the children will face further harm if placed in her care. Bonding evaluations and expert testimony on bonding found credible by the trial judge reveal a weak and insecure bond between defendant, a bond that can easily be severed without any harm to the children. On the other hand, the children are securely bonded to their foster parents and would suffer severe harm if removed from them, a harm which defendant cannot ameliorate.
A court can terminate parental rights when the Division shows by clear and convincing evidence that:
(1) The child's safety, health or development has been or will continue to be endangered by the parental relationship;
(2) The parent is unwilling or unable to eliminate the harm facing the child or is unable or unwilling to provide a safe and stable home for the child and the delay of permanent placement will add to the harm. Such harm may include evidence that separating the child from his resource family parents ...