On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FG-09-262-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 7, 2010
Before Judges Payne, Baxter and Koblitz.
Defendant G.S. appeals from an October 22, 2009 Family Part order that granted the request of the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS or the Division) for termination of G.S.'s parental rights to his daughter, R.S., born May 27, 2005. The Family Part order also terminated the parental rights of N.T., R.S.'s mother. N.T. has not appealed. We affirm the termination of G.S.'s parental rights.
G.S. and N.T. are the parents of two children, N.S. and R.S. To provide context for our discussion of the Division's efforts to terminate G.S.'s parental rights as to R.S., we briefly describe the Division's involvement with G.S. and N.T. starting in 2003, before R.S. was born. On July 17, 2003, N.S. was born prematurely and drug-exposed. She is blind, has cerebral palsy and is developmentally delayed, as a result of her premature birth. N.T. tested positive for methadone and heroin and admitted using heroin the weekend before she gave birth to N.S. After the Division obtained legal custody of N.S., N.T. entered the Straight and Narrow drug treatment program, successfully completing it in May 2004. After moving into an aftercare program at Project Home, N.T. was discharged for violating the program's rules, and consequently never completed the aftercare program. In early 2005, the Division was unable to locate G.S. or N.T. to provide them with services. In May 2006, their parental rights were terminated as to N.S.*fn1
On May 27, 2005, the Division received a referral from Jersey City Medical Center when R.S. was born prematurely and drug-exposed at twenty-eight weeks gestation. She was sixteen inches long, and weighed only three pounds and ten ounces. R.S. tested positive for methadone and opiates, and N.T. admitted to using those drugs during her pregnancy. N.T. did not even know she was pregnant until her sixth month, at which time she entered a methadone clinic and was placed on methadone maintenance. In June 2005, upon her entry into a detox program, N.T. admitted to a heroin habit of three bags per day, acknowledging that she had been using heroin for twenty years.
Because the Division was granted legal custody of R.S. at birth, she has never lived with either parent. Since her birth, R.S. has had five different foster placements, including her current one. In June 2007, she was placed with her current foster parents, who have already adopted her sister, N.S., and are willing to adopt R.S., should the natural parents' rights be terminated. At the time of the trial, R.S. was receiving occupational and physical therapy three times a week. She has severe developmental delays, which we describe later in this opinion.
We turn now to G.S. G.S. has a history of drug addiction, criminal convictions and homelessness. After R.S. was born, G.S. was incarcerated at the Hudson County Jail, and was incarcerated again from October 2006 until June 2007 while serving a sentence. His criminal history includes convictions for possession of a controlled dangerous substance and for possession of a firearm.
After testing positive for methadone, cocaine and marijuana in October 2005, the Division referred G.S. for substance abuse treatment. He was ordered by the court to attend a drug treatment program, and referred to a program at Spectrum Health Care, but did not complete the aftercare program. In March 2006, he tested positive for methadone, but was no longer attending a drug treatment program. DYFS also offered him individual counseling, which he refused.
From December 2005 until August 2006, DYFS provided G.S. and N.T. with supervised visitation with R.S. However, the Division terminated the visitation as of August 29, 2006 because the parents were non-compliant by failing to contact DYFS before canceling visits.
G.S. and N.T. named V.C., a maternal aunt, as a potential caretaker for R.S., and she applied to become a resource family parent. On December 16, 2006, G.S. and N.T. made an identified surrender of their parental rights to V.C., and R.S. was to be placed with V.C. once the application was complete. On March 27, ...