On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Gloucester County, Docket No. FG-08-0023-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Carchman and Messano.
Defendant D.D. appeals from the Family Part's order terminating her parental rights to two of her children, A.D. and B.D. Defendant raises the following points on appeal:
I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN TERMINATING THE PARENTAL RIGHTS OF THE DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, D.D.
A. The evidence adduced at trial did not support the court's finding that the State met prong two of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a) as D.D. is willing and able to provide a safe and stable home for her children and there is no delay in permanent placement.
B. The evidence adduced at trial did not support the court's finding that the State met prong four of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a) as termination of D.D.'s parental rights will do more harm than good.
We have considered these arguments in light of the record and applicable legal standards. We affirm.
D.D. and W.D. had four children together: a daughter, A.D., born September 11, 1997; another daughter, B.D., born February 17, 1999; a son, L.D., born July 20, 2002; and another daughter, F.D., born October 31, 2004.*fn1 The Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS or the Division) first became involved with the family in 2001 when it received a referral that defendant and W.D. were using cocaine and neglecting their children. The Division spoke to the parents at their home and requested that they submit to a drug test; they refused. The children appeared to be healthy and the home was well-kept, leading the Division to conclude the allegations were unsubstantiated.
The Division received another referral in May 2002 stating that defendant was pregnant, and she and W.D. were using cocaine. The Division was unable to contact the family. In July, the Division received a referral from the South Jersey Hospital indicating that defendant had given birth to L.D. Although defendant and L.D. tested negative for drugs, it was revealed that defendant had tested positive for marijuana on January 8. The Division again determined the allegations of abuse and neglect were unsubstantiated.
On October 8, 2004, defendant was arrested for theft, receiving stolen property and forgery. W.D. contacted the Division on January 5, 2005 complaining that the children's maternal grandparents, J.T. and H.T., who lived in Pennsylvania, were physically abusing the children. At the time, W.D. had separated from defendant, who was homeless and sometimes stayed with her parents.
W.D. was not working either and was receiving welfare and staying with his mother, L.S. W.D. had custody of the children. After conducting an investigation, DYFS found the charges against the maternal grandparents to be unsubstantiated.
On January 31, 2005, defendant was sentenced to a minimum of three months in prison following her guilty plea to theft and forgery. In March, she was again sentenced to a period of probation after pleading guilty to theft. On May 12, defendant was again arrested for theft and receiving stolen property.
On May 23, 2005, the Media, Pennsylvania police made a referral to DYFS. W.D. was transporting L.D. and F.D. to defendant's residence for visitation when he was arrested for possession of two small baggies containing cocaine residue. Defendant was residing with a friend at the time.
DYFS investigated and spoke to L.S. She denied any knowledge of her son's drug use, but agreed to a safety plan wherein she would not leave the children alone with W.D.
On June 24, 2005, defendant was again arrested for theft, forgery, resisting arrest and possession of drug paraphernalia.
J.T. contacted the Division regarding the arrest and further advised that defendant and W.D. were both using cocaine. J.T. indicated that A.D. and B.D. were in Florida with their father and she was looking after L.D. and F.D. However, H.T. and J.T. were moving to an age-restricted community where the children were not permitted to reside. On June 27, J.T. and H.T. left L.D. and F.D. at Child Protective Services in Pennsylvania, and the two children were placed in foster care. W.D. returned from Florida on July 20, 2005, and Child Protective Services returned L.D. and F.D. to him.
On September 1, 2005, defendant was sentenced to two years probation after pleading guilty to theft and forgery.
On January 3, 2006, the Division received a referral from J.T. and H.T. who were once again caring for L.D. and F.D. Defendant had just been released from a drug rehabilitation program, lacked food or money and asked her parents for assistance. The grandparents could not reach W.D. or L.S. who were in Florida with B.D. and A.D. When J.T. and H.T. advised that they were unable to care for the children, DYFS took temporary custody of L.D. and F.D.
On January 5, 2006, the Division filed a complaint seeking custody of L.D. and F.D. The court granted the Division's request and placed the ...