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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. C.S.

November 8, 2010


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FN-09-343-05.

Per curiam.



Submitted October 27, 2010

Before Judges Axelrad, Lihotz, and J. N. Harris.

This appeal seeks review of the October 15, 2009, order of the Family Part, which dismissed the Title 9*fn1 care and supervision proceedings in favor of a contemporaneously-filed Title 30*fn2 action for the termination of parental rights. Aligning ourselves with N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. A.P., 408 N.J. Super. 252 (App. Div. 2009), certif. denied, 201 N.J. 153 (2010), we dismiss the appeal as moot.


Because of the nature of our disposition, we briefly recite the factual and procedural background. C.S. was born on Christmas Day, 2004, in Christ Hospital in Jersey City. He came to the attention of the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division or DYFS) three days later when his mother, defendant Caron,*fn3 was reported by hospital staff as acting erratically and endangering her child. Upon its investigation at the hospital, the Division determined that Caron suffered from a mental illness, which may not have been adequately addressed during her pregnancy. The DYFS investigation uncovered information concerning Caron's medical history, prior short-term hospitalization in a New York psychiatric hospital, and her lack of permanent housing. After interviewing Caron and a relative, and upon presenting her with a variety of the Division's resources and services to protect her newborn, Caron declined to accept the Division's offer.

On January 3, 2005, the Division filed a Title 9 verified complaint for care and supervision in the Family Part against Caron and C.S.'s presumed biological father, defendant K.H.

K.H. did not participate in the ensuing almost-five years of proceedings; Caron did. From the inception of the action, C.S. was removed from the custody of Caron and placed with the Division.

Throughout at least twenty-one court events,*fn4 the Family Part oversaw the tumultuous relationship between Caron and the Division. Caron was obliged to undergo several mental health assessments, bonding evaluations, and parenting education. DYFS provided a smorgasbord of services, including investigation of alternate custodial arrangements; provision of homemakers; supervised and in-home visitation; mental health evaluations, including medication monitoring; rental assistance; and a variety of counseling opportunities.

In December 2005, the Division envisioned reunification of mother and child, conditioned upon Caron's satisfactory compliance with mental health treatment and assessment of her medication. Reunification was not achieved because Caron failed to diligently comply with the services provided. The parties frequently returned to court to address visitation problems, compliance with medication issues, treatment alternatives, and allegations of Caron's erratic behavior in the presence of DYFS employees. In early 2006, two outstanding arrest warrants surfaced relating to Caron: one from New York (a parole violation) and the other from Jersey City (theft by deception).

The court was aware of Caron's warrants, noting in an order dated October 10, 2006, that reunification was still contemplated, but only upon "[Caron] taking her medication and must resolve criminal issue before reunification can occur." With no further explanation in the record, it appears that following satisfaction of the Jersey City warrant, Caron was transferred to New York, where she was initially incarcerated at Rikers Island. Shortly thereafter, she suffered a breakdown and was transferred to the Central New York Psychiatric Center.

Although Caron was discharged by October 2007 and resumed visitation, serious problems continued throughout 2008. By then, C.S. had been living with the same foster family for more than two years. Caron lodged complaints to the Division concerning alleged abuse, including sexual abuse, and other improper conduct by members of C.S.'s foster family. Although investigated by DYFS, none of Caron's allegations were substantiated. Her impulsive and sometimes irrational ...

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