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D.B. v. New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services

May 26, 2010

D.B., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.
IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION FOR THE PLACEMENT OF J.M.S. A/K/A J.M.C., A MINOR.
NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
D.C. AND J.R.S., DEFENDANTS.
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF J.M.S. A/K/A J.M.C., A MINOR.



On appeal from a determination of the Division of Youth and Family Services (No. A-4499-08T4), and from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Union County, Docket No. FG-20-51-09V (No. A-0869-09T4).

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued March 22, 2010

Before Judges Lisa and Alvarez.

D.B., the maternal grandmother of J.M.S., appeals the April 14, 2009 final agency decision made by defendant New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division) ruling her out as a relative placement resource. D.B. also appeals a July 16, 2009 Law Division order denying her application to intervene in the litigation seeking to terminate the parental rights of J.M.S.'s biological parents. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

J.M.S., identified in the caption as "a/k/a J.M.C.," was born prematurely, weighing 2.5 pounds at birth, on March 21, 2007, and was hospitalized for the first fourteen months of his life. His custody, care, and supervision were awarded to the Division on November 29, 2007.

At birth, J.M.S.'s meconium tested "positive for cocaine and opiates"; for this reason, the Division became involved with the child's welfare. The child's mother, D.C., and his father, J.R.S., were limited to supervised visitation in the November 2007 removal order. D.C. supplied D.B.'s name as a possible relative placement on October 4, 2007, prior to the order of removal.

The Division was unable to maintain phone contact with D.B. in the fall of 2007, despite the fact her grandchild was hospitalized. By early 2008, the Division had found only one prospective foster parent, R.M., willing to take J.M.S. R.M. was in the process of being licensed as a "special home service provider" after her home passed inspection, and had the expertise necessary to tend to J.M.S.'s medical needs, including the proper use of specialized medical equipment he required, such as oxygen tanks. J.M.S. was placed with R.M. on May 12, 2008.

Three interstate packets were nonetheless forwarded to potential relative foster parents, including D.B., on April 9, 2008. By July 1, 2008, New York City Children's Services (NYCCS) wrote to D.B. and advised as follows:

I am writing to advise you that we have closed our record of the request to complete a home study of your home for the above child because you stated that at this time you do not have the necessary time to complete the home [s]tudy evaluation and also you will be out of town in one week.

D.C. reported to the Division on July 18, 2008, that her mother, D.B., had canceled the appointment with NYCCS because she would not "pay[] for [D.C.'s] screw-ups."

On September 23, 2008, the Division wrote to D.B. advising that J.M.S. could not be placed with her because she had not had the time to complete the home study process and did not know when she would have the time, and, as a result, NYCCS had closed the case. D.B. continues to reside at the address used in that letter; but for this particular correspondence, she has received all other mail sent there regarding this matter.

A permanency order was entered on October 29, 2008, enabling the Division to continue to seek termination of D.C.'s and J.R.S.'s parental rights, and allowing it to move forward with an adoption plan. Shortly after the complaint for guardianship was filed with the Division, J.M.S.'s mother, D.C., died on March 20, 2009. Four days later, D.B. contacted the Division stating that she wanted "full custody of her grandson" and that she was now willing to schedule home visits and undergo background checks. She physically appeared at a Division office the next day to obtain custody of the child. When she was shown the September 2008 ...


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