On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, FG-07-229-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 29, 2010 -- Decided December 27, 2010
Before Judges Rodriguez, C.L. Miniman and LeWinn.
In these consolidated appeals, birth mother D.T.B. challenges the termination of her parental rights to her three-year-old daughter S.M.B. and two-year-old son T.J.G. Birth father I.G. appeals from the termination of his rights with respect to T.J.G. The birth father of S.M.B. is unknown. The children have no other siblings. We affirm.
The testimony and other evidence adduced at trial reveals that the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) became involved with the family on March 24, 2007, the day after S.M.B.'s birth. Newark Beth Israel Medical Center brought the birth to DYFS's attention because of a concern about D.T.B.'s psychiatric condition. She had been treated at the same hospital for psychiatric issues.*fn1 Hospital social workers called DYFS because they were concerned about the danger to the well-being of the newborn presented by D.T.B.'s condition. DYFS placed S.M.B. in foster care.
Between May 2007 and May 2008, DYFS referred D.T.B. to nine different "Mentally Ill Chemically Addicted" (MICA) programs. These placements were not successful in dealing with D.T.B.'s problems. She began visitation with S.M.B. in May 2007. However, four months later, D.T.B. smashed a glass door at DYFS's office with her head. In addition, Sonia Oquendo, M.D., a psychiatrist, suspected that D.T.B. was not taking her medication. Therefore, visitation was suspended.
About one year after the birth of S.M.B., on March 19, 2008, T.J.G. was born. Once again, the hospital's social workers made a referral to DYFS. Visitation with S.M.B. was then restored. D.T.B. and I.G. regularly attended visits with both children together. However, shortly thereafter, problems arose during visitation. D.T.B. and I.G. came to DYFS's office for a visit. They were placed in the visitation room. While waiting for the caseworker to bring the children, D.T.B. and I.G. copulated in the visitation room. Thereafter, D.T.B. and I.G. were given separate visitation schedules.
Three months later, D.T.B. punched the caseworker supervising her visit. In another visit, D.T.B. tried to feed chocolate to S.M.B., who was a little over one-year old. On a July 2008 visit, she attempted to dress the children in Christmas outfits. Visitation was again suspended.
From April 2009 throughout the trial of this matter, D.T.B. was jailed for assault. D.T.B. had struck a woman in the head with a bottle at a bus stop because D.T.B. suspected the woman had a romantic interest in I.G.
I.G. told a DYFS caseworker that he could not plan for or take care of the children, and that he would not separate from D.T.B. He was referred for parenting skills classes and counseling. He did not go. From December 2008 until approximately March 2009, I.G. was also jailed. While at large, I.G. visited T.G.J. consistently every week until October 2009. Then he stopped. According to the caseworker, their visits went well. His interaction with T.J.G. was described as "loving." I.G. also requested visits with S.M.B., stating that although she is not his biological daughter, he still considered himself to be her father.
Mark Singer, Ed.D., a psychologist, evaluated D.T.B. He reported that she told him that she was homeless and lived along a highway in Newark. She did not know the date or the name of the President. D.T.B. disclosed to him that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. According to Dr. Singer, D.T.B. does not recognize the need for medication. For that reason, she would stop taking medication once she felt better.
Dr. Singer opined that D.T.B. had "paranoid ideation" and focused on painful experiences. In addition, "[t]he test data suggest that [D.T.B.] is experiencing a significant mental disorder involving delusions, paranoid ideation, apparent psychosis, and aggressive/impulsive behavior." D.T.B. also "appears to have a significant substance abuse or dependency problem."
Alexander Iofin, M.D., a psychiatrist, also evaluated D.T.B. At the evaluation, D.T.B. was psychotic and under the influence of illegal substances. The evaluation also revealed that D.T.B. had suicidal tendencies.
In his September 2009 report, Dr. Iofin found D.T.B. to suffer from a "delusional behavioral pattern." He further opined that:
She without a doubt is suffering from very significant neurodegenerative disorder, which is Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type, where morphological substract of such condition consists of premature death of multiple nerve cells (neurons) in the gray area of the brain, and significant imbalance in neurotransmitters, with significant abnormalities in neuroreceptors in the brain.
Dr. Iofin also opined that D.T.B. will be unlikely to comply with a MICA program unless she is observed twenty-four hours a day. She will continue to have a "moderate to severe" psychiatric impairment. She ...