On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FG-07-185-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges A.A. Rodriguez and LeWinn.
L.M., the birth mother of K.H.P., a boy born in July 2006, appeals from the May 25, 2010 judgment terminating her parental rights to the child. The boy's birth father, K.P., executed a voluntary surrender on the condition that his mother, T.P., be awarded custody.
During the first seventeen months of K.H.P.'s life, L.M. lived with K.P. and T.P. In December 2007, L.M. moved into her own residence with K.H.P. During that time, K.H.P. spent four days a week at T.P.'s home.
The Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) first became involved with L.M. in March 2008, when L.M. was transported by ambulance to Jersey City Medical Center. She was incoherent, paranoid and delusional. Testing revealed that L.M. was under the influence of ecstasy and alcohol. Nineteen-month-old K.H.P was in her sole custody at the time and traveled in the ambulance with her. The charge nurse at the hospital reported that L.M. "could barely hold [K.H.P.] and he almost fell out of her hands." Police officers at the hospital contacted K.P., T.P. and two of L.M.'s sisters.
T.P. and K.P. arrived at the hospital and requested to take K.H.P. home. The caseworker initially refused this request because L.M.'s sisters had alleged that K.P. beat L.M. in front of T.P. T.P. and K.P. denied the allegations. The caseworker asked the police officers to do background and domestic violence checks on K.P. and T.P. T.P.'s background check was clear.
K.P. had several past arrests and had been recently arrested for possession of illicit narcotics, possession of a handgun and receiving stolen property. The caseworker initiated an emergency removal of K.H.P and developed a plan that called for K.P. to move out of T.P.'s home, and K.H.P. to go home with T.P.
L.M.'s sisters refused to provide any background information about themselves to the DYFS caseworkers.
DYFS filed an order to show cause. Judge James S. Rothschild granted legal custody of K.H.P. to DYFS and physical custody to T.P. After a fact-finding hearing, Judge Rothschild found by clear and convincing evidence that L.M. and K.P. had placed K.H.P. "in imminent danger of harm." DYFS provided L.M. with services including psychological and psychiatric evaluations, substance abuse treatment, transportation, counseling, parenting skills classes and frequent visitation.
Two months after her initial hospitalization, L.M. was admitted to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center for a substance- induced psychotic disorder. She admitted using ecstasy two days prior to her admission. DYFS then learned that L.M. had not been attending treatment for more than a month. L.M. admitted ...