On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, FG-07-199-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 30, 2009
Before Judges Rodríguez, Reisner and Chambers.
Defendant S.H appeals from an order dated April 2, 2009, terminating his parental rights to his son, to whom we will refer here as S.H.H. We affirm, substantially for the reasons set forth in Judge John Callahan's oral opinion of the same date.
The pertinent facts are set forth at length in Judge Callahan's opinion. We summarize them here. The child was born on June 8, 2006 to M.H., who had used illegal drugs while pregnant and had no prenatal care. At birth, S.H.H. was fifteen weeks premature, weighing a little over one pound. He has "global developmental delays" as well as physical disabilities. Upon the child's release from the hospital in September 2006, the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division or DYFS) obtained custody and placed him in foster care.
Defendant was incarcerated from July 2006 until January 2008, and had no contact with his son while in prison. Defendant had several visits with the child after his release, between March 12, 2008 and June 5, 2008. However, on June 5, 2008, defendant advised the Division case worker that he would not attend any more visits with his son because he was about to become a fugitive. Defendant was rearrested on a parole violation in September 2008, and he was still incarcerated at the time of the termination hearing. The Division explored the possibility of placing S.H.H. with defendant's relatives or with several maternal relatives, but these individuals either never responded to the agency's contacts or were ruled out as inappropriate.
Because S.H. was either incarcerated or a fugitive during most of his son's life, DYFS primarily focused its efforts on providing "a multitude of services" to the mother, M.H. However, due to her inability or unwillingness to comply with the services the Division offered, M.H. eventually voluntarily surrendered her parental rights.
When not incarcerated or a fugitive, S.H. had some visits with his son. However, the State's expert, Dr. Brown, testified that due to the minimal contact between S.H. and his son, then age two, there was no possibility of a parent-child bond having developed between them. Consequently, no bonding evaluation was done.
S.H. has a history of drug problems. In addition, Dr. Brown diagnosed S.H. as mildly mentally retarded. Brown concluded:
The present assessment portrays [S.H.] as cognitively limited, immature, with poor impulse control, poor insight, feelings of less competence, less self-control, poor adaptability, and with few appropriate assertiveness skills. [S.H.] has accomplished very little in his adult life and he demonstrates poor ability to sustain ...