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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. Y.C.

May 27, 2011

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
Y.C. DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. IN THE MATTER OF A.C., A MINOR.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, Docket No. FN-12-246-09, and Passaic County FN-16-112-10.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued May 16, 2011

Before Judges Reisner, Sabatino and Alvarez.

In this Title 9 litigation, Y.C. appeals from a December 9, 2009 order finding that she abused her daughter A.C. and from a final order dated August 4, 2010 terminating the litigation. On this appeal, she raises the following issues:

POINT I:

THE TRIAL COURT'S DECISION MUST BE REVERSED BECAUSE THERE WAS INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE TRIAL COURT'S FINDING OF ABUSE AND NEGLECT AND THE TRIAL COURT BASED ITS FINDINGS ON A MISUNDERSTANDING OF APPLICABLE LEGAL PRINCIPLES.

POINT II:

THE TRIAL COURT'S DECISION MUST BE REVERSED BECAUSE ITS FINDINGS WERE IN CONTRAVENTION OF THE FREE EXERCISE CLAUSE.

The gravamen of the abuse and neglect complaint was that, based on information she obtained over the internet, Y.C. arranged for her seven-year-old daughter to be subjected to a ceremony in which the child was handed over to strangers, pricked with a needle on various parts of her body, and forced to watch animals being strangled and having their throats cut.

We find no merit in Y.C.'s Point II, and the related First Amendment arguments she raises in Point I, because she failed to produce any legally competent evidence that subjecting her daughter to this ceremony was based on Y.C.'s religious beliefs, or even that the ceremony was religiously based. In fact, her trial counsel denied that religion was an issue in the case. Therefore, there is no basis in the record to disturb the trial judge's factual finding that the child's involvement in the ceremony was not based on Y.C.'s religious beliefs. See N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs v. M.C. III, 201 N.J. 328, 340-42 (2010). Because the trial judge's finding of abuse and neglect was supported by substantial credible evidence, we affirm.

I

The following summary is based on testimony from a Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) case worker at the fact finding hearing, and on documents entered in evidence pursuant to a stipulation from Y.C.'s counsel "as to [their] admissibility." See id. at 348. Those documents were also authenticated as business records by the testifying DYFS case worker, Kenrick Lawrence*fn1 , ...


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