April 22, 2010
NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
C.R. AND N.J.C., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF K.W.R., A MINOR.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FG-07-49-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted April 12, 2010
Before Judges Alvarez and Coburn.
In this consolidated appeal, the natural parents of K.W.R., a minor, seek reversal of the order of June 23, 2009, terminating their parental rights. After carefully considering the briefs and record, we are satisfied that the "judgment of [the] trial court is based on findings of fact which are adequately supported by evidence," R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(A), and that all of the arguments offered by the defendants "are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion."
R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). Nevertheless, we add the following comments.
The trial court found that both parents are plagued by longstanding and extensive use of controlled dangerous substances, which was confirmed by their conduct and admissions, as well as the drug testing ordered by DYFS. In addition, K.W.R.'s mother, N.J.C., has frequently inflicted physical harm to K.W.R. by beating him with her hand and with a belt. The expert testimony indicated that N.J.C. tended to minimize the impact of the physical discipline. C.R. has a serious history of alcohol abuse and "has been [utterly] inconsistent in taking on a significant parenting role in his child's life." Consequently, the first prong of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1 was clearly satisfied.
With respect to the statute's second prong, the trial court emphasized the unwillingness and inability of both parents to address their addictions and their failure to visit K.W.R. regularly since his placement with his maternal aunt, E.J.C. Those conclusions are more than adequately supported by clear and convincing evidence.
With respect to the third prong of the statute, the trial court noted the numerous services offered to the parents by DYFS, including "visitation, parenting skills classes, counseling, therapy, psycho-educational services[s], substance abuse evaluation and treatment programs, aftercare programs, drug screens [and] psychological and bonding evaluations." None of these advanced the ability of these parents to care for K.W.R.
With respect to the statute's fourth and final prong, the judge credited the expert testimony indicating that K.W.R. would suffer little harm by permanent separation from his parents. The experts also testified that K.W.R. would suffer great harm if taken from his aunt E.J.C., whom he viewed as his "psychological parent, his secure attachment figure, someone he can turn to and will be there for him to address and meet his needs." Consequently, we cannot say the judge erred in finding that the best interests of K.W.R. would be served by his adoption by E.J.C.
In reaching our conclusion, we note that we are obliged to accord particular deference to the findings of Family Part judges in matters of this kind. Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 412 (1998). Here there is no question but that the judgment is "supported by adequate, substantial, credible evidence" in the record as a whole. Id. at 411-12.
N.J.C. also argues that the judge erred in failing to consider kinship legal guardianship, but that is an option where "'adoption of the child is neither feasible nor likely.'" N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. P.P., 180 N.J. 494, 509 (2004) (quoting N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.3). We note that E.J.C., who has steady, full-time employment and no other dependents, has clearly expressed her desire to adopt K.W.R.
N.J.C. also claims that N.J.S.A. 3B:12A-6 is preempted by federal law; namely, 42 U.S.C.A. 673(d). This argument is without sufficient merit to warrant discussion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).
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