On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Union County, Docket No. FN-20-56-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Rodriguez, Grall and LeWinn.
C.M. is the maternal grandmother of K.T., A.M., K.J. and J.J. She appeals from the March 15, 2010, compliance review hearing order dismissing her from the litigation initiated by the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) based on the abuse and neglect of K.T., A.M., K.J. and J.J.*fn1 We modify the order as to A.M. only.
K.T. was born in May 2004, when her birth mother S.M. and her birth father J.T. were both fifteen years old. At that time, S.M. was living at home with her parents. Three months later, C.M. filed an application to gain custody of K.T. because S.M. was doing "teenager things" and "running the streets."
C.M., S.M. and J.T. appeared before Judge Frederic S. Kessler. He ordered that the three would share legal custody of K.T., but that C.M. would have residential custody.
A.M. was born in November 2006, while S.M. still lived at home. S.M. and A.M.'s father, T.H., were seventeen years old at the time. When S.M. moved out a year later, she left A.M. with C.M. because she did not want to separate her two daughters. No court order was ever obtained concerning A.M.'s custody.
K.T. and A.M. remained with C.M., who was solely responsible for them. Meanwhile, S.M. moved in with her boyfriend, D.J., and gave birth to K.J. in May 2008.
Two months later, C.M. sought a temporary restraining order against S.M. C.M. explained to the court that S.M. had physically attacked her and her husband; had a history of mental instability; and "cuts herself all over" when she gets angry.
C.M. feared for the safety of her husband, her children, her grandchildren and herself.
On July 28, 2008, Judge Robert J. Mega issued a final restraining order: (a) barring S.M. from C.M.'s home and workplace; (b) prohibiting her from communicating with C.M. or her husband; (c) prohibiting parenting time with K.T.; (d) providing that residential custody of K.T. would remain with C.M.; and (e) directing S.M. to undergo mental health evaluation and treatment within ten days. S.M. ignored these directives.
In March 2009, DYFS received a referral regarding alleged incidents of domestic violence and substance abuse by S.M. and D.J. Neglect was substantiated against D.J., but not against S.M. DYFS implemented a case plan.
DYFS received a second referral on September 24, 2009, when S.M., who was eight months pregnant by D.J., came to the emergency room after being kicked in the stomach. Although doctors instructed her to remain at the hospital overnight for observation, she went home.
C.M.'s husband suffered a stroke on October 3, 2009. C.M. stayed with him overnight at the hospital, leaving K.T. and A.M. in S.M.'s care. Two days later, a counselor aide with Catholic Charities, went to S.M.'s residence to perform a random urine screen pursuant to the March 2009 case management plan. When the counselor knocked on the door, five-year-old K.T. answered. K.T. said that her mother was not home and she did not know where her mother was. The counselor saw an infant, K.J., behind K.T., and began yelling for S.M. When ...