On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Gloucester County, Docket No. FG-08-19-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Rodriguez, Miniman and LeWinn.
The Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) brought this action to terminate defendant B.A.W.'s parental rights to her child, J.T.W., a boy born in October 2007. Following a trial, Judge Mary K. White entered judgment in favor of DYFS. We affirm.
J.T.W. is the tenth child of B.A.W. and T.W. T.W. does not live with B.A.W., and has not provided support for any of his children with her.*fn1 DYFS's first contact with B.A.W. was on January 8, 2003, after she received a municipal court fine for her children's truancy. DYFS determined that continued supervision was merited.
A month later, B.A.W. gave birth to Ja. W., who tested positive for opiates. DYFS became involved with B.A.W. again on March 30, 2004, when she gave birth to Jo. W, who was born drug-exposed, deaf, blind and premature. He tested positive for cocaine, amphetamines and methamphetamines. Jo. W. died from complications from drug exposure before his first birthday.
In May of 2004, Social Services moved B.A.W. and the children to transitional housing. After supervisors heard "screaming coming from the house at night," and saw B.A.W's young children "running out in the street in front of cars," Social Services evicted the family.
With DYFS's help, B.A.W. moved to a Volunteers of America Shelter. There, B.A.W. continued to leave her children unsupervised, and faced eviction again by September of 2004. DYFS intervened and sought guardianship of the six children in her care. Judge Cynthia Covie-Leese granted DYFS's petition on September 9, 2004 citing the "ongoing risk to the life, safety or health of the children due to unstable housing, improper supervision . . . , lack of medical care . . . , and [B.A.W.'s] failure to enroll the children in school."
After the children were removed, DYFS provided B.A.W. with outpatient drug rehabilitation. Nevertheless, her cocaine and opiate use continued through 2005 and 2006.
DYFS also retained Dr. James Loving, a psychologist, to evaluate B.A.W. Although B.A.W. had no "major mental health problems [or] major intellectual limitations," she abused narcotics, suffered from mild depression and exercised poor judgment. She also had Dependent Personality Disorder, causing her to rely on others to parent her children. Consequently, she lacked "basic parenting skills." B.A.W. also suffered from Adjustment Disorder which caused her to become overwhelmed, "withdrawn and not active" when she was depressed.
According to Loving, B.A.W.'s substance abuse also had "obvious implications for her ability to parent safely and effectively in a whole range of ways . . . contributing to a lethargic, not active, not effective, not consistent way of disciplining her kids, meeting her kids' needs and maintaining independence and stability for them." Loving recommended that DYFS "seriously consider other permanency outcomes for her kids," if B.A.W. was unable to adjust.
On January 31, 2006, Judge Marvin E. Schlosser ordered B.A.W.'s six oldest children to be placed with her cousin and sister as kinship legal guardians. Later that year, the judge terminated B.A.W.'s parental rights to ...