April 14, 2011
DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF S.R.S.B., A MINOR.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Mercer County, Docket No. FG-11-56-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued: March 30, 2011
Before Judges Axelrad, Lihotz, and J. N. Harris.
S.S. appeals from a June 1, 2010 judgment of the Family Part terminating her parental rights to her then three-year-old son, S.R.S.B., and awarding guardianship to the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) for the purposes of effectuating the child's adoption.*fn1 On appeal, S.S. argues DYFS did not prove by clear and convincing evidence the four statutory prongs required to establish that her son's best interests require severance of her parental ties. She additionally argues it was inappropriate for DYFS to have retained the child in his foster placement rather than considering Y.B., his paternal aunt, as a viable placement option. We note that the Law Guardian supports termination of S.S.'s parental rights to S.R.S.B.
After considering the record and briefs in light of the applicable law, we are satisfied the trial judge's findings and conclusions are firmly supported by substantial, credible evidence in the record as a whole. See, e.g., N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. A.R.G., 361 N.J. Super. 46, 78 (App. Div. 2003), aff'd in part, modified in part and remanded, 179 N.J. 264 (2004), certif. denied, 186 N.J. 603 (2006). We affirm.
We need not describe in detail the many facts the trial court considered in its determination. We instead provide a brief summary of the cogent facts we considered in concluding the judge's findings were well-supported by the record.
The following testimony and evidence were presented during the four-day trial commencing in January 2010 and concluding in May 2010. DYFS presented the factual testimony of three employees, Nicole Ortiz, an investigator with the Institutional Abuse Investigations Unit, Anne Marie Sciarotta, a permanency worker, and Lauren Gauntt, an adoption caseworker. The agency also presented the expert testimony of Amy Becker-Mattes, Ph.D., who performed a psychological evaluation of S.S. and a bonding evaluation of S.R.S.B. with his foster parents. S.S. testified on her own behalf and presented no expert testimony.
Before S.S. gave birth to S.R.S.B. on June 18, 2007, she had given birth to five other children, none of whom remained in her care. S.S. gave birth to her first child when she was fourteen years of age but DYFS was not involved because she voluntarily surrendered her parental rights. S.S. has been known to DYFS since February 1996, when she gave birth to her second child, a daughter, who tested positive for cocaine. At the time of trial, the child resided with her maternal grandmother under a kinship legal guardianship. S.S.'s parental rights to her three other children were involuntarily terminated as a result of petitions filed by DYFS in 2003 and 2004. One of those children tested positive for cocaine at birth.*fn2
DYFS again became involved with S.S. when it received a referral about S.R.S.B.'s birth and learned S.S. admitted to smoking a joint laced with cocaine one month prior to the delivery. DYFS performed an emergency removal and placed S.R.S.B. with his maternal grandmother, but returned the infant to S.S. on July 11, 2007, after the child tested negative for drugs at birth. On August 15, 2007, the court issued an order in the recently-filed abuse and neglect case directing S.R.S.B. to remain under the care and supervision of DYFS.
On November 2, 2007, Dr. Allan Lee performed a psychological evaluation of S.S. and diagnosed her with Personality Disorder not-otherwise-specified, with anti-social narcissistic and paranoid traits. Noting S.S.'s parenting stressors and the fact she had struggled to sustain a relationship with her six children, as well as her history of poor decision-making, Dr. Lee opined that S.S. presents with a heightened propensity for substance abuse relapse, criminal recidivism, and generally irresponsible functioning and poor parenting. Some of her knowledge about parenting and childrearing appears to be limited, and her emotional skills and maladaptive personality traits further compromise her ability to effectively and consistently carry out effective parenting.
Dr. Lee expressed concerns with S.S. being an independent caregiver to any minor child and recommended supervised visitation.
S.S. was sporadic or non-compliant with substance abuse treatment and parenting classes. On January 8, 2008, during a routine drug test, S.S. tested positive for cocaine. As a result of the positive test and non-compliance with services, DYFS removed S.R.S.B. from his mother's care on January 11, 2008, and placed him in his current foster home. He was six months old at the time. On January 15, 2008, DYFS filed an amended verified complaint in the abuse and neglect case seeking custody of S.R.S.B.
In the following months, S.S. had weekly supervised visits with her son at the DYFS office or elsewhere in the community. However, though successfully completing the Strengthening Families program, she failed to complete the Brighter Day Behavioral Health program and was terminated from substance abuse treatment based on her sporadic or lack of attendance and refusal to provide urine samples as part of her routine drug screening. On June 13, 2008, pursuant to an application by the Law Guardian, the court relieved DYFS of its responsibility to make reasonable efforts to provide services to S.S.
On October 9, 2008, the court approved DYFS' permanency plan that called for termination of mother's parental rights followed by adoption by the foster parents. The permanency order stated that S.S. "has yet to remediate the substance abuse issues which led to the removal of the child for she is still testing positive for drugs. The experts in this case agree that it would be a risk of harm to the child to be reunited with [S.S.]." The order further noted that S.S. "has not taken advantage of the services offered by the Division to become drug free and the child is in a home where the parents are willing to adopt." DYFS filed a complaint for guardianship on December 3, 2008.
On September 30, 2009, Dr. Becker-Mattes performed a psychological examination of S.S. at DYFS' request. She diagnosed S.S. with a moderately severe mental disorder, and noted characteristics of an anti-social personality disorder and traits of narcissism and sadism. S.S. also demonstrated "an indifference to the welfare of others, a tendency to exploit others, a deficient social conscience, a tendency toward irritability and anger, and risk taking behavior." The psychologist also warned that S.S. was at risk for substance abuse relapse and its consequential problems.
Dr. Becker-Mattes concluded, based on her clinical interview, psychological testing, and S.S.'s history, that S.S. should not be considered as a primary caretaker for S.R.S.B. She recommended intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment, psychotherapy, anger management classes, occupational training and birth control counseling. At trial, she testified that it would take several years for S.S. to correct her problems, during which time S.R.S.B. would become increasingly bonded with his foster parents. Accordingly, the psychologist was of the opinion that it would be "a tremendous injustice" for S.R.S.B. to "wait forever for permanency."
On June 26, 2009, Dr. Becker-Mattes conducted a bonding evaluation of S.R.S.B. with his foster parents. At that time S.R.S.B. had been living with his foster parents for about a year and a half and was in the midst of celebrating his second birthday. In her report and testimony, Dr. Becker-Mattes observed an extremely loving, mutual relationship and strong bond between S.R.S.B. and his foster parents. She went on to describe how positive S.R.S.B.'s behavior was during the one-hour assessment, noting that "he just kind of threw his arms around both foster parents on different occasions and kind of gave them big hugs and kisses." The psychologist also described in detail the joyful interaction between them.
Dr. Becker-Mattes addressed the fact that S.R.S.B. is African-American and his foster parents are Caucasian. She did not observe any problems between them because of the difference in race. The foster mother reported how she had purchased a book, which discussed how people may look different but that all people are the same inside and have the same needs.
Overall, Dr. Becker-Mattes opined that "a very positive bond" existed between S.R.S.B. and his foster parents, and "to sever that bond or to threaten that bond in any way" could be "extremely harmful" to him. She stated that this harm could not be abated by placing the child with a biological family member, explaining that a "two-and-a-half year old child has no knowledge or understanding of what it means to be with a biological relative or another individual." Dr. Becker-Mattes concluded that there was no one who could take the place of S.R.S.B.'s foster parents without causing him psychological harm. The psychologist raised the possibility of clinical depression, acting out, voluntary mutism and retardation of developmental milestones if S.R.S.B. were separated from his foster parents.
Pursuant to a case management order of May 15, 2009, S.S. was directed to attend psychological and bonding evaluations with Dr. Becker-Mattes on June 18, 2009 and on June 30, 2009, respectively. The psychologist testified that S.S. failed to appear for the June 18 psychological evaluation, and because it was her custom to conduct that prior to a bonding evaluation, the June 30 appointment was converted to a psychological evaluation. S.S. failed to appear on that date as well. During a conversation with Gauntt on July 1, 2009, S.S. claimed she forgot about the first appointment and initially denied knowing about her second one. However, when S.S. was shown the letter outlining the dates of the appointments, which she acknowledged receiving, S.S. admitted she had also forgotten the second appointment. As previously discussed, the psychological evaluation was conducted on September 30, 2009.
Another bonding evaluation was scheduled for October 19, 2009, at which S.S. again failed to appear. DYFS had attempted to provide transportation for S.S. on this date and picked up the child before traveling to the mother's home. S.S., however, was not there and a man at the house had no idea as to her whereabouts. S.R.S.B. was returned to his foster home without seeing his mother. Dr. Becker-Mattes never received a phone call from S.S. regarding any of these missed appointments.
A case management order of August 28, 2009 again directed S.S. to
attend a bonding evaluation on December 21, 2009. Dr. Becker-Mattes
testified that she scheduled the appointment for 10:00 a.m. because
she had to be in court that afternoon and stressed that mother had to
be on time. The psychologist waited for over an hour and left for
court. S.S. did not show up until 11:40 a.m., but it was too late for
the psychologist to return to her office before court.*fn3
No further bonding evaluations were scheduled by DYFS for
Gauntt also testified at trial as to her observations of S.R.S.B. with his foster parents. She related that he calls them "mom" and "dad," and he looks to them for his daily needs and "basically looks to them as his parents." The caseworker was satisfied the child's needs were being met "110 percent," noting he had his own room, was up-to-date on all of his medical appointments, and had been undergoing speech therapy to help him speak in full sentences. He also received the benefit of his foster mother's attention throughout the day as she did not work outside the home. Gauntt further related that the foster parents took S.R.S.B. to the local library for craft and story time weekly and signed him up for Gymboree program for interaction with other children his age. Gauntt described S.R.S.B. as "a happy boy" who was "very energetic" and "very close knit with . . . the foster family and their extended family." The foster parents expressed a strong desire to adopt S.R.S.B., stressing to a DYFS caseworker that they considered him to be a part of their family.
DYFS considered a number of alternative placement options for S.R.S.B. other than adoption by his foster parents. S.S. acknowledged that neither her mother nor her father were willing to care for S.R.S.B. At her suggestion, DYFS contacted her cousin as a potential placement but the cousin did not follow up and DYFS eventually ruled her out as a placement option.
There was a possibility for S.R.S.B. to be placed with his father, but, unfortunately, his father died in February 2009. The father's sister, Y.B., reported his death to DYFS and advised that she and her family did not oppose S.R.S.B. being adopted by his foster parents as long as they could visit with the child and remain in touch. Y.B. also asked if S.R.S.B. could start visits with his half-brother and sister, his father's two older children. The foster parents indicated they were not opposed to sibling visits even if they adopted S.R.S.B.
About a week later, Y.B. changed her mind and told DYFS she wished to adopt S.R.S.B. and was willing to move into a larger home to accommodate the child. The caseworker informed her that because S.R.S.B. had been with his foster parents for over a year, Y.B. would only be considered as a backup option in the event that adoption by the foster parents did not occur. Y.B. became a licensed foster placement and began visiting with S.R.S.B. in March or April of 2009. By August 2009, S.R.S.B. had continued visiting with Y.B., but he was still unsure of her relationship to him. DYFS represents in its brief that by December 2009, Y.B. had stopped visiting S.R.S.B.
Based on this record and after observing the lay and expert witnesses, examining the exhibits entered into evidence, and hearing arguments of counsel, Judge Audrey Blackburn concluded the best interests of S.R.S.B. required severance of S.S.'s parental ties. In a detailed oral decision of June 1, 2010, the judge recited the factual and procedural history of the case, made findings of fact and credibility assessments, noted the applicable law, and found DYFS had established by clear and convincing evidence the four-prong test for termination of parental rights as set forth in New Jersey Division of Youth & Family Services v. A.W., 103 N.J. 591, 604-10 (1986), and codified in N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a). The determination was memorialized in a judgment of guardianship. This appeal ensued.
We begin by noting some basic principles. The scope of our review of a trial court's decision to terminate parental rights is limited. In re Guardianship of J.N.H., 172 N.J. 440, 472 (2002). We also have a limited scope of review of the Family Part's factual findings. N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. M.M., 189 N.J. 261, 279 (2007). In reviewing the factual findings and conclusions of a trial court, we are obliged to accord deference to the trial judge's credibility determinations and the judge's "feel of the case" based upon the opportunity of the judge to see and hear the witnesses. A.R.G., supra, 361 N.J. Super. at 78 (citing Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 411-12 (1998); Pascale v. Pascale, 113 N.J. 20, 33 (1988)). "When the credibility of witnesses is an important factor, the trial court's conclusions must be given great weight and must be accepted by the appellate court unless clearly lacking in reasonable support." N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. F.M., 375 N.J. Super. 235, 259 (App. Div. 2005) (citing In re Guardianship of D.M.H., 161 N.J. 365, 382 (1999)). We rely upon the trial court's acceptance of the credibility of the expert testimony and the court's fact-findings based thereon, as it is in a better position to evaluate the witness' credibility, qualifications, and the weight to be accorded to the expert's testimony. Ibid.; see also In re Guardianship of J.C., 129 N.J. 1, 22 (1992).
We are not to disturb the factual findings and legal conclusions of the trial judge unless they are "so manifestly unsupported by or inconsistent with the competent, relevant and reasonably credible evidence as to offend the interests of justice." Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co. of Am., 65 N.J. 474, 484 (1974) (citation omitted). Additionally, because of the family courts' special jurisdiction and expertise in family matters, appellate courts should accord deference to family court factfinding and the conclusions which flow logically from those findings of fact. Cesare, supra, 154 N.J. at 412-13; M.M., supra, 189 N.J. at 279. Reversal is required only in those circumstances in which the trial court's findings were "so wide of the mark that a mistake must have been made." M.M., supra, 189 N.J. at 279 (citation and quotation marks omitted). Applying this standard, we discern ample evidence in the record supporting the judge's conclusion that S.R.S.B.'s best interests required termination of S.S.'s parental rights.
The applicable principles are well settled. "Parents have a constitutionally protected, fundamental liberty interest in raising their biological children." In re Adoption of a Child by W.P. & M.P., 308 N.J. Super. 376, 382 (App. Div. l998) (citing Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 753, 102 S. Ct. 1388, 1394-95, 71 L. Ed. 2d 599, 606 (1982)), vacated on other grounds, 163 N.J. 158 (2000). "The Federal and State Constitutions protect the inviolability of the family unit." W.P. & M.P., supra, 308 N.J. Super. at 382 (citing Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651, 92 S. Ct. 1208, 1212-13, 31 L. Ed. 2d 551, 558-59 (1972)). However, government "is not without constitutional control over parental discretion in dealing with children when their physical or mental health is jeopardized." Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584, 603, 99 S. Ct. 2493, 2504, 61 L. Ed. 2d 101, 119 (1979) (citing Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 230, 92 S. Ct. 1526, 1540, 32 L. Ed. 2d 15, 33 (1972)). The State, as parens patriae, may sever the parent-child relationship to protect the child from serious physical and emotional injury. W.P. & M.P., supra, 308 N.J. Super. at 382.
When the child's biological parent resists termination of parental rights, it is the court's function to decide whether the parent can raise the child without causing harm. J.C., supra, 129 N.J. at 10. The cornerstone of our inquiry is not whether the parent is fit, but whether the parent can become fit to assume the parental role in time to meet the child's needs. Ibid. (citing A.W., supra, 103 N.J. at 607). "The analysis . . . entails strict standards to protect the statutory and constitutional rights of the natural parents." J.C., supra, 129 N.J. at 10. "The burden rests on the party seeking to terminate parental rights 'to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence' that risk of 'serious and lasting [future] harm to the child' is sufficiently great as to require severance of parental ties." W.P. & M.P., supra, 308 N.J. Super. at 383 (alteration in original) (quoting J.C., supra, 129 N.J. at 10).
The question for the court "focuses upon what course serves the 'best interests' of the child." W.P. & M.P., supra, 308 N.J. Super. at 383. The State Constitution and N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15(c) and 15.1(a) require satisfaction of the "best interests of the child" test by clear and convincing evidence before termination of parental rights can occur. See A.W., supra, 103 N.J. at 612; In re Guardianship of Jordan, 336 N.J. Super. 270, 274 (App. Div. 2001). Specifically, the four-prong test set forth in N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a) requires DYFS to prove:
(1) The child's safety, health or development has been or will continue to be endangered by the parental relationship;
(2) The parent is unwilling or unable to eliminate the harm facing the child or is unable or unwilling to provide a safe and stable home for the child and the delay of permanent placement will add to the harm. Such harm may include evidence that separating the child from his resource family [formerly referred to as "foster"] parents would cause serious and enduring emotional or psychological harm to the child;
(3) The [D]ivision has made reasonable efforts to provide services to help the parent correct the circumstances which led to the child's placement outside the home and the court has considered alternatives to termination of parental rights; and
(4) Termination of parental rights will not do more harm than good.
These criteria are neither discrete nor separate. In re Guardianship of K.H.O., 161 N.J. 337, 348 (1999). They overlap to provide a composite picture of what may be necessary to advance the best interests of the child. Ibid. "The considerations involved in determinations of parental fitness are 'extremely fact sensitive' and require particularized evidence that address the specific circumstances in the given case." Ibid. (quoting In re Adoption of Children by L.A.S., 134 N.J. 127, 139 (1993)).
Our examination of the record discloses all four prongs of the statutory test have been met by clear and convincing evidence. The first prong involves an inquiry into whether there has been an "endanger[ing] of the child's health and development resulting from the parental relationship[,]" and whether there will be future harm to the child's safety, health, or development if the parental relationship is not terminated. K.H.O., supra, 161 N.J. at 348. The focus of the inquiry is not necessarily on a "single or isolated harm or past harm," but rather on "the effect of harms arising from the parent-child relationship over time on the child's health and development." Ibid.
The facts, as found by the trial judge from credible evidence, reveal that S.S. placed her son at risk by her longstanding history of drug abuse and non-compliance with services. In concluding DYFS had presented clear and convincing evidence satisfying the first prong, Judge Blackburn aptly noted that S.S. has "refused counseling [and] she has failed to provide nurturance and solitude or financial support for the child." S.S. admitted she continued to use drugs into her third trimester and S.R.S.B. was fortunate, through no effort of S.S.'s, not to have been born cocaine-addicted like some of his siblings. Considering S.S.'s lengthy period of cocaine abuse, it is ludicrous to believe that the only time she used drugs during the six-month period her infant son was in her care was when she was randomly tested in January 2008.
We do not find convincing S.S.'s argument that DYFS failed to present compelling evidence of physical harm to S.R.S.B. to satisfy the first statutory prong. There does not need to be actual physical harm to a child to endanger his or her health and development; the potential for harm is sufficient. See A.W., supra, 103 N.J. at 616; W.P. & M.P., supra, 308 N.J. Super. at 386. Moreover, the absence of physical abuse is not conclusive in analyzing the first prong as "the mental health of the child and its best interest psychologically must always be considered." A.W., supra, 103 N.J. at 605 (quoting In re Guardianship of R., 155 N.J. Super. 186, 194 (App. Div. 1977)).
The second prong contemplates the determination of parental unfitness. DYFS must prove the harm is likely to continue as a direct result of the parent's unwillingness or inability to eliminate the harm that had endangered the child's health and development, or the parent has failed to provide a "safe and stable home for the child" and a "delay in securing permanency" will further harm the child. K.H.O., supra, 161 N.J. at 348-49.
Mother's inability or unwillingness to refrain from cocaine use during her pregnancies, resulting in the removal of the children from her care, coupled with her continual use both before and after S.R.S.B.'s birth, is clearly indicative of the second statutory prong. The expert testimony and reports all concluded that S.S. had not significantly participated in any substance abuse program at the time of trial and was at risk for relapse. There was no indication in any of the evidence presented of S.S.'s imminent correction of the problems that led to her son's removal. To the contrary, Dr. Becker-Mattes' unrebutted expert testimony, as credited by the court, was that S.S. was "not now or ever will be able to parent [S.R.S.B.]."
DYFS may also establish the second prong by showing "that the child will suffer substantially from the lack of stability and a permanent placement and from the disruption of [his or] her bond with foster parents." Id. at 363. The Court has also recognized that the first and second prongs are "related to one another, and evidence that supports one informs and may support the other as part of the comprehensive basis for determining the best interests of the child." D.M.H., supra, 161 N.J. at 379.
There was clear, convincing lay and expert evidence in the record to support Judge Blackburn's conclusion that S.R.S.B. had significantly bonded with his foster parents, who have cared for him since he was six months old, sought adoption, and provided him with the permanency and stability he had not received from his mother. The expert testimony is clear that S.R.S.B. would suffer serious and enduring psychological harm if he were separated from his foster parents, including the potential risk of depression, voluntary mutism and retardation of developmental milestones.
The third prong requires DYFS to make "reasonable efforts" to assist the parents in correcting or eliminating the circumstances that caused the harm and consider alternatives to termination. N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a)(3). It is uncontroverted that DYFS provided S.S. with a myriad of services in which she only sporadically participated or was completely non-compliant, resulting in a June 13, 2008 court order relieving DYFS of its responsibility to continue to provide her services.
It is not fatal to the court's finding on the third prong that it omitted mention of S.S.'s participation in weekly supervised visitation. Nor is it grounds for reversal that S.S. was provided only one hour of supervised visitation per week. In accordance with N.J.A.C. 10:122D-1.1(b), DYFS arranged for weekly visitation; S.S. provides no evidence that she ever requested, and was denied, longer or more frequent visitation with S.R.S.B. Moreover, though her visitation is a commendable factor, it is insufficient to overcome the clear and convincing evidence of S.S.'s refusal to address her longstanding history of cocaine abuse and meaningfully participate in the variety of addiction services, or avail herself of the parenting classes and psychiatric counseling that would assist her in learning the skills necessary to provide a safe and stable home for her son.
Lastly, the statute's fourth prong mandates a determination as to "whether a child's interest will best be served by completely terminating the child's relationship with that parent." N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. E.P., 196 N.J. 88, 108 (2008). There is ample basis in the record for the judge's finding that the evidence strongly pointed towards termination rather than reunification.
Dr. Becker-Mattes testified that it could take several years for S.S. to correct her personality issues and substance abuse problems, during which time S.R.S.B. would become increasingly bonded with his foster parents. At the time of trial, S.R.S.B. had already been in the care of his foster parents for over two years and S.S. was still not in a position to care for him, not even having found suitable housing. It is unclear when, if ever, S.S. would be able to care for her son. See K.H.O., supra, 161 N.J. at 358 (noting that there are "limits on the amount of time a parent may have to correct conditions at home in anticipation of reunification").
As Judge Blackburn pointed out, adoption by his foster parents would provide S.R.S.B. with "permanency in a stable, loving and nurturing home with his resource family." As Gauntt testified, S.R.S.B. was "thriving, meeting all of his developmental milestones, and there's no indication that he's not getting all the care that he needs and that [his foster parents] won't be planning for his future to be a stable one." The expert testimony clearly demonstrated that separating S.R.S.B from his foster parents would cause serious and enduring emotional and psychological harm.
We disagree with S.S.'s reliance on New Jersey Division of Youth & Family Services v. A.R., 405 N.J. Super. 418, 440 (App. Div. 2009), and assertion that DYFS could not have satisfied the fourth prong because a bonding evaluation was not performed between her and the child, making comparison impossible. S.S. was provided more than ample opportunity to participate in a bonding evaluation and chose not to do so. S.S. failed to attend multiple appointments with Dr. Becker-Mattes, made no attempt to reschedule and chose not to present the report and testimony of an alternative expert on this issue. Accordingly, she cannot now complain about the lack of a comparative bonding evaluation.
Moreover, contrary to S.S.'s assertion, DYFS considered a number of alternative placements rather than adoption by the foster parents. Judge Blackburn noted these efforts and discussed the reasons why adoption by his foster parents was in S.R.S.B.'s best interests. More specifically, by the time Y.B. came forward and expressed an interest in adopting S.R.S.B., he had already been in the care of his foster parents for over a year. Dr. Becker-Mattes testified that no one, including a biological relative, could lessen the harm S.R.S.B. would experience if he were removed from his foster parents. As a practical matter, even if DYFS had considered Y.B. as a viable placement, she had expressed an interest in adopting S.R.S.B., which would still have resulted in the termination of S.S.'s parental rights.
We have no doubt S.S. loves her son and honestly believes she is ready to care for him. However, we are convinced the record supports the trial judge's finding that S.S. is unable to provide a safe, stable and permanent home that her son so desperately needs at this point in his life. As we concluded in In re Guardianship of A.R.G., 318 N.J. Super. 323, 330, (App. Div.), certif. denied, 162 N.J. 127 (1999), where there is substantial credible evidence in the record to support termination of parental rights, there is no reason to delay permanent resolution. A child cannot afford to wait until such time as his parent might possibly be able to provide a safe, secure and nurturing environment for him. The trial court properly concluded that termination of parental rights will not do more harm than good to S.R.S.B. as it will free him for adoption by his foster parents who have served as his psychological parents during the majority of his life and who can provide permanency and stability.