On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Cape May County, Docket No. FN-05-34-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Wefing, Payne and Baxter.
Following two fact finding hearings, defendant A.L. appeals from April 23, 2008 and March 4, 2010 Family Part orders finding that she abused and neglected her children in violation of N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c)(4)(b). We affirm.
A. The April 23, 2008 order
On September 10, 2007, a member of the clinical staff at Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point, notified the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) that defendant A.L. had just given birth to a child, A.D., whose stool, as well as the meconium present in the placenta, had tested positive for cocaine. The hospital also notified DYFS that a blood test administered to A.L. likewise tested positive for cocaine.
The next day, DYFS worker Jennifer Hirsch met with A.L. and T.D., the baby's father, to ask them why their son, A.D., had tested positive for cocaine. A.L. denied using any drugs during her pregnancy, but stated that on the night of September 8, 2007, two days before giving birth to A.D., she and T.D. went to pick up a friend at a bar. According to A.L., while the three were in the car, she turned around, and saw that the friend was about to use a bag of cocaine that was the size of a ping pong ball.
A.L. told Hirsch that when she tried to grab the bag of cocaine out of the friend's hands, it exploded, resulting in cocaine being spread all over the car, as well as on her body and face. A.L. claimed that she must have ingested the cocaine from it "being all over her." She insisted that she and T.D. were sober and drug-free at the time they picked up the friend at the bar. DYFS directed the hospital not to discharge the baby until further notification.
Hirsch also interviewed a hospital social worker who informed her that when A.L. was five months pregnant with A.D., she had come into the hospital for treatment of a urinary tract infection and had tested positive for marijuana. When Hirsch asked A.L. to explain the positive marijuana test, A.L. stated that she works for a pharmacy, and delivers prescription medication to the home of a patient with cancer. According to A.L., the man smokes marijuana and was smoking marijuana when she made the delivery. She explained that she must have inhaled the marijuana while standing at the doorway of the man's home. Hirsch informed A.L. that it is not possible to test positive for marijuana if the only contact with the substance is inhaling it from a doorway. Despite Hirsch's comment, A.L. continued to deny any drug use.
In connection with its investigation, DYFS also interviewed A.L.'s mother, C.L., who had legal custody of A.L.'s older child, her five-year-old son, T.L. Although C.L. disputed DYFS's contention that her daughter, A.L., was a drug user, C.L. nonetheless agreed to the implementation of a Safety Protection Plan, under which she would supervise all contact by A.L. and T.D. with the baby, A.D., until further notice by DYFS.
The hospital discharged A.D. when he was two days old, after notifying DYFS that the infant was not suffering from any withdrawal symptoms. Nonetheless, because A.L. tested positive for cocaine at the time of the baby's birth, and positive for marijuana during her pregnancy, and because A.D.'s stool and meconium were positive for cocaine, DYFS ...