On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, FG 04-57-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 13, 2009
Before Judges Reisner and Chambers.
Defendant A.E.H appeals from a May 30, 2008 order of the Family Part terminating her parental rights to her three children, S.W., born May 30, 2005; H.D.T., born November 20, 2006; and R.R.T., born September 3, 2007. We affirm.
The following pertinent evidence was presented at the guardianship trial, which was held on April 23, 2008. The State presented the history of its involvement with defendant through the testimony of Billie Paugh, who had been the case worker for the two older children since the beginning of 2007, and for the youngest child since January 2008. She was also the custodian of records for the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division or DYFS) with respect to these children.
S.W. first came to the Division's attention in August 2005, when the Brooklawn police department called to report that the child and her family were living in "deplorable conditions." On investigation, the Division found S.W. living with her parents and maternal great-grandparents in a house that was littered with "cat feces all over the home" and was otherwise uninhabitable. Following an emergency removal, the Division was awarded custody of the child, who was placed in foster care.
The Division provided defendant with parenting classes, a psychological evaluation, and a psychiatric evaluation. She cooperated with these services, and S.W. was eventually returned to her custody in October 2006, on the understanding that mother and child would be living in Philadelphia with the child's paternal grandparents.*fn2 However, the Division later received information that defendant was taking the child back to the maternal great-grandparents' house in Brooklawn, in violation of the October 11, 2006 order returning custody to defendant.
According to Ms. Paugh, H.D.T. was removed from defendant and placed in foster care shortly after his birth in November 2006. H.D.T. was a "high risk" premature baby who needed to be maintained on an apnea monitor. When the Division case worker inquired why he was not on the monitor, A.E.H. stated that "the nurse told her" that the monitor could be discontinued. After learning that defendant's statement was not true and that defendant had not brought the baby to the doctor for needed follow-up appointments, the Division removed the baby and placed him in foster care.*fn3 The agency also removed S.W. because defendant had repeatedly returned with the child to the great-grandmother's house in Brooklawn.
S.W. was placed with defendant's mother, J.H., in the home of J.H.'s paramour. However, S.W. was removed from that home on February 1, 2007, after the paramour insisted that J.H. and the baby leave his house. According to Division records, the paramour told Paugh that A.E.H. and her boyfriend Q.T. had threatened him.*fn4 S.W. was placed in foster care, because J.H. no longer had a stable home for her. In fact J.H.'s plan was to go live with her parents in Brooklawn, a home the Division had previously found unsafe for the child to live in.
Again, the Division provided defendant with parenting classes as well as TAFCAR,*fn5 which Paugh described as a "service that was going into the home and helping her with learning how to [sic] daily living and helping her clean up the [Brooklawn] home and to get it to the standards of the Division." The agency also referred defendant for an additional psychological evaluation.
This time, defendant did not complete the parenting classes. Moreover, although the Division arranged for additional in-home parenting training through the Robin's Nest program, defendant did not take advantage of that opportunity either. According to Paugh, defendant "would not let the Robin's Nest worker in the home and [refused] the services. She said she didn't have her kids, and she didn't need the service." The Division's contemporaneous records from March 15, 2007 corroborate Paugh's testimony that defendant refused services from Robin's Nest.
Paugh testified that she had observed defendant visiting with her children on several occasions. According to Paugh, A.E.H. had very little interaction with the children during these visits. After one of the visits, at which Paugh was not present, a nurse reported to Paugh that A.E.H. did not appear to know how to safely hold H.D.T. while changing his diaper.
Paugh testified that defendant's youngest child, R.R.T., was removed from defendant at birth. Before the baby was born, the Division had defendant evaluated at Rowan University to determine whether she could care for the baby. The evaluator reported that she "would not be ...