On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, FG-02-76-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 1, 2010
Before Judges Ashrafi and Nugent.
Defendant R.H. is the husband of L.Q. and they are the parents of D.H. Defendant R.H. appeals from a March 11, 2010 order of the Family Part, entered after an abuse and neglect hearing in which the court determined R.H. had placed D.H. at risk of harm. The order dismissed the Title 9 abuse and neglect complaint and ordered D.H. and L.Q. to show cause why their parental rights should not be terminated and their child, D.H., committed to the guardianship and control of the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division or DYFS). We affirm.
The Division first became involved with L.Q. on March 5, 2008, after receiving an anonymous call that she was four months pregnant, had been using crack cocaine for five years, and had psychiatric problems. In response, a Division screening worker interviewed L.Q. and her parents, with whom she lived. The Division referred L.Q. for appropriate evaluations and treatment, and notified area hospitals to contact the Division when L.Q.'s child was born.
On the day D.H. was born, a hospital employee contacted the Division and reported L.Q. had tested negative for substances, but had previously tested positive for crack cocaine during two prenatal visits. The hospital also reported that L.Q. suffered from bipolar disorder.
A DYFS intake worker, Karil Ferrare, responded to the call and went to the hospital, where R.H. and L.Q.'s parents were also present. After interviewing L.Q. and her parents, Ferrare explained that the Division proposed a safety plan to have the grandparents supervise L.Q.'s contact with the baby until L.Q. began treatment. All present, including, R.H., agreed to this arrangement. However, the plan changed after Ferrare received additional information during her continuing investigation.
On August 14, 2008, the Division filed an order to show cause for care and supervision of D.H. It is noteworthy that DYFS did not seek to gain legal custody of D.H. at this time. Defendant R.H. appeared with counsel and reserved his right to contest the verified complaint's allegations at a fact-finding hearing, but did not oppose the interim relief DYFS sought. After taking testimony from Ferrare, the court found sufficient grounds to warrant the Division's intervention, and approved a plan for D.H. to reside with L.Q. at her parents' home, but required L.Q. to be supervised by one of her parents whenever she was with the baby. The court also restrained R.H. from the home and ordered that his supervised visitation take place at the DYFS office.
Based on information received after the August 14, 2008 hearing, the Division decided that an emergency removal of D.H. was needed. On September 5, 2008, the Division filed an "Order to Show Cause and to Appoint a Law Guardian with Temporary Custody for D.H." The court entered an order making D.H. a ward of the court; placing D.H. in the custody, care, and supervision of the Division; directing L.Q. and R.H. to show cause why an order should not be entered continuing D.H. in the care of the Division and in the physical custody of L.Q.'s parents; restraining L.Q. and R.H. from the home of the grandparents; providing for supervised visitation at the Division office; and directing L.Q. and R.H. to show cause why they should not be ordered to undergo psychological and psychiatric evaluations and to submit to urine screens. On September 23, 2008, a "Return Order to Show Cause" hearing was conducted and the court entered an order continuing physical custody of D.H. with the maternal grandparents, providing for supervised visitation, requiring L.Q. and R.H. to undergo psychological, psychiatric and substance abuse evaluation, and restraining L.Q. and R.H. from the grandparents' home.
Thereafter, the court issued various compliance review orders which included requirements that L.Q. and R.H. attend psychological and psychiatric evaluations and substance abuse treatment programs. On December 23, 2008, L.Q. waived a fact-finding hearing and admitted to using cocaine while caring for D.H., thereby putting him at risk. On July 28, September 16, and October 8, 2009, the court conducted a fact-finding hearing. Two Division workers and R.H. testified at the hearing. Four exhibits were admitted into evidence: two DYFS investigation reports and two lab reports.
Caseworker Ferrare interviewed L.Q. in the hospital on the day of D.H.'s birth. The interview was conducted outside of the presence of L.Q.'s husband and her parents. According to Ferrare, L.Q. lived with R.H. at her parents' home, was bipolar, and had used crack cocaine in the past, but had not used it in at least three months. L.Q. met R.H. at a clinic in 2006 and they married in May 2008. They intended to live with her parents and have her mother help ...