On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Mercer County, Docket No. FG-11-15-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 3, 2010
Before Judges Wefing, Messano and LeWinn.
Defendant is the birth father of Z.S.P.-F. and Z.D.P.-F., fraternal twins born July 2, 2001. He appeals from the May 6, 2009 order of the Family Part terminating his parental rights to the children and awarding guardianship to the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). The children's birth mother, M.F., voluntarily surrendered her parental rights to the children's foster parents at the outset of trial. We affirm.
M.F. and H.P. met while they were both involved in a drug treatment program and dated until sometime in 2001. H.P. had previously been incarcerated for drug-related offenses; he was paroled in 2001 but was soon thereafter charged with a parole violation when he was caught selling drugs from his apartment. M.F. was pregnant with the twins at that time. H.P. was sent to Jamesburg Training School to serve a two-year sentence. Upon his discharge from Jamesburg, H.P. moved to North Carolina with his new paramour.
DYFS received referrals regarding M.F.'s care of the children commencing on September 19, 2005. The twins were removed from her custody on July 19, 2006, and were placed with their maternal great aunt. At that time, M.F. informed the DYFS caseworker that H.P. "[wa]s in and out of jail and [wa]s of no support . . . ."
On January 5, 2007, Dr. Carl J. Chiappetta performed a psychological evaluation of Z.S.P-F. on behalf of DYFS and opined that the child had "mild depression[,] . . . he was rather quiet[,] . . . fairly distractible . . . [with] a short attention span." The child also had "a noticeable articulation deficit, . . . a lack of comprehension and/or processing of . . . verbal questioning." "Given the complexity of [Z.S.P.-F.'s] problems, his young age, and various services and interventions that will be required," Dr. Chiapetta recommended that the child be placed in a therapeutic foster home.
Both children were placed in a "Family Service Specialized Home" on January 19, 2007. A Family Services therapist, Cher Paget, reported that Z.D.P.-F. had been diagnosed by a staff psychiatrist as a neglected child and was "significantly behind academically."
In January 2007, H.P. contacted DYFS and expressed a desire to care for the twins or, alternatively, for the twins to be placed with his great aunt until he found an apartment. However, DYFS was unable to contact H.P.'s great aunt.
DYFS was thereafter unable to contact H.P. until April 16, 2007, when he was located at the Mercer County Corrections Center. He had been incarcerated there since March 30, 2007, on robbery charges.
On June 22, 2007, DYFS contacted H.P.'s paramour, R.B., after she indicated an interest in adopting the twins. Following an evaluation, however, DYFS ruled out R.B. as a potential caretaker because of her "non-existing relationship with the children."
On July 25, 2007, the twins were placed in another therapeutic foster home where they continued to reside as of the time of trial. These foster parents expressed interest in adopting the twins in November 2007; subsequently, in October 2008, they indicated their firm intention to pursue adoption.
DYFS filed its complaint for guardianship on November 30, 2007; however, the agency was unable to serve H.P. until January 4, 2008, when he ...