February 15, 2011
DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF A.C.M., A MINOR.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Burlington County, Docket No. FG-03-24-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT
THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 20, 2011 - Decided
Before Judges Sapp-Peterson, Simonelli and Fasciale.
Defendant A.E.M., the biological mother of A.C.M., born in August 2007, appeals from the final judgment of the Family Part terminating her parental rights to her child.*fn1 Defendant contends that plaintiff Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence the four statutory prongs contained in N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1a, and failed to consider Kinship Legal Guardianship (KLG) with the maternal grandparents. After reviewing the evidence presented to the trial court, and in light of the prevailing legal standards and the arguments presented, we affirm.
We will not recite in detail the history of the Division's involvement with defendant. Instead, we incorporate by reference the factual findings and legal conclusions contained in Judge Schlosser's comprehensive oral opinion rendered March 8, 2010. We add only the following comments.
We are satisfied that beginning with the Division's involvement with defendant and A.C.M. in August 2007, and continuing up to and including the commencement of the trial in February 2010, the Division provided opportunities for defendant to reunify with her child, who was born medically fragile and suffered withdrawal symptoms due to defendant's prenatal drug use. In addition to her long-term drug abuse, defendant has a lengthy criminal history, was incarcerated when A.C.M. was born, and was also incarcerated at the time of trial with an expected release in March 2011, at the earliest. She has been diagnosed with substance dependence disorder and antisocial personality disorder "with narcissistic personality traits and histrionic and sadistic personality features." Defendant's serious psychological problems "significantly decrease her parenting capacity to provide a minimum level of safe parenting for her daughter."
Judge Schlosser carefully reviewed the evidence and, thereafter, concluded that the Division had met by clear and convincing evidence all of the legal requirements for an order of guardianship. His opinion tracks the statutory requirements of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1a, accords with In re Guardianship of K.H.O., 161 N.J. 337 (1999) and In re Guardianship of D.M.H., 161 N.J. 365 (1999), and is amply supported by clear and convincing evidence in the record, New Jersey Division of Youth & Family Services. v. P.P., 180 N.J. 494, 511 (2004).
We reject defendant's contention that the Division failed to consider KLG with the maternal grandparents. Both prior to and after A.C.M.'s birth, the maternal grandparents advised the Division that they could not care for the child long-term. Nevertheless, the Division explored placement with the maternal grandparents; however, the grandparents repeatedly changed their minds about their desire and ability to care for the child and failed to attend a bonding evaluation with the Law Guardian's expert. We agree with Judge Schlosser that the maternal grandparents "were not really a meaningful alternative to termination of parental rights."
Further, KLG is not appropriate where adoption of the child is feasible and likely. The foster parents, who have cared for A.C.M. for two-and-one-half years, and with whom A.C.M. has clearly bonded, want to adopt the child. See P.P., supra, 180 N.J. at 509.