On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Passaic County, No. FG-16-13-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 29, 2010
Before Judges Wefing, Payne and Baxter.
Y.V. appeals from a trial court judgment terminating her parental rights with respect to her two daughters, Z.M., now nine years of age, and A.V., now eight years of age. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
Y.V. has two other children, an older son and a younger son, each of whom now resides with his respective father. Neither of the boys was the subject of the trial court's proceedings.
In the three-and-one-half-year period from January 2003 to July 2006, the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) received eight referrals with respect to Y.V., six of which involved allegations of physical abuse. DYFS responded and investigated each referral, not all of which could be substantiated. Y.V. did admit to the use of a belt to discipline her children.
DYFS provided various services to Y.V. as a result of these referrals, including counseling, anger management and parenting classes. These services were implemented in the spring of 2005 after DYFS received a referral with respect to her older son, then nine. She admitted striking him, both with her hand and with a belt and maintained it was her parental right to do so.
The children were removed from Y.V.'s care in July 2006, when Z.M. was four years old and A.V. three. After that initial removal, Y.V. had regular visitation with both girls, some of which took place at a local Y.M.C.A. and some at the DYFS office. DYFS included as a witness the worker who supervised these visits. She testified that she had concerns about the favoritism Y.V. would display during these visits toward the older girl, Z.M. She said she spoke to Y.V. about this issue, but without any improvement on her part.
DYFS also presented the intake worker who had been involved in the referral which led to the children's removal from defendant's care on July 6, 2006. He received a call advising him that Y.V. had been arrested when she assaulted a police officer who had responded to the girls' daycare center in response to a report that Y.V. had beaten A.V. The incident occurred shortly after 9:00. A.V. was taken to the hospital for examination, and the DYFS worker saw her there after 4:00 that afternoon. He said that she still had marks on her arm and shoulder from where Y.V. had grabbed and twisted her arm. A.V. also had scratch marks on her arm and five finger markings on her face.
The four children were removed that day, and the boys were placed with their respective fathers and the girls were placed together with two consecutive foster families. Eventually, in February 2008, the two girls were placed together with their present foster family; the foster mother, J.L., is Y.V.'s cousin.
J.L. testified that when the children came to live with her, A.V. had significant behavior problems and, although nearly six years old, was not potty-trained, did not know her letters, her numbers or her colors. She said A.V. regularly suffered from nightmares, expressing fears of a monster coming after her. She said she heard A.V. speaking to her therapist and identifying this "monster" as Y.V. She also said she witnessed the same preferential treatment that Y.V. would give to Z.M. over A.V. that the DYFS case worker observed when she supervised visitation.
Shortly after the girls had been removed from Y.V.'s care, DYFS had them evaluated, and both were diagnosed with ADHD. By the time of trial, A.V.'s behavior had significantly improved, she was doing well in school, and Z.M. was no longer considered to have ADHD.
The girls had regular visitation with Y.V. at J.L.'s home for some time after they came to live with J.L. A.V. acted up so badly immediately before and after these visits that the site was changed at J.L.'s request. In July 2008, Z.M. returned from a visit and reported that Y.V., while giving her a bath, had inserted her finger into the girl's vagina and twisted it. Visitation then ceased to permit an evaluation to determine whether these visits were harmful to the girls. Y.V.'s visits with A.V. never resumed although they did with Z.M. after she subsequently recanted the allegation.
DYFS presented Rachel Nelson, Ph.D., as an expert witness. Dr. Nelson evaluated Y.V., performed a bonding evaluation between Y.V. and Z.M. and between Z.M., A.V. and their foster parents. She conducted these evaluations in August and September of 2009. Dr. Nelson testified that Y.V. had been involved in a series of relationships, some of which were of very brief duration and some of which were marked by domestic violence. She administered a wide variety of tests to Y.V. The Adult Adolescent Parenting Inventory showed that despite the fact that Y.V. had completed parenting classes, she still had "very significant and substantial deficits in parental fitness and her understanding of child bearing [sic] issues, responsibilities and obligations . . . ."
Dr. Nelson also administered the Child Abuse Potential Inventory. She testified that the results indicated that Y.V. was trying to present herself "in an exaggerated, positive, favorable light." On this test she earned "significant scores" on the rigidity scale and problems with child and self scale.
In addition, Dr. Nelson gave Y.V. the MMPI, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. The results of this test also indicated that Y.V. was attempting to present herself "in an unrealistically positive and favorable light." Dr. Nelson testified in the following manner with respect to the results of this test:
Despite the fact that she attempted to present herself as favorably as possible, she earned significantly high scores on the histrionic scale and she earned moderately high scores on other sub scales, including narcissistic behavior, sadistic aggressive behavior, passive aggressive behavior and other areas that suggest that she has a hard time expressing anger, recognizing anger, that she has a hard time recognizing her behavior and its impact on others. That she tends to need to be very colorful, very--the center of attention in her social group and that there is a ...