On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FG-13-69-10. Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Alan I. Smith, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 19, 2011
Before Judges Sabatino, Ashrafi and Fasciale.
Defendant appeals from an October 27, 2010 order terminating his parental rights to his biological six-year-old daughter, L.E.G. He argues that the judge erred by terminating his rights because the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division) failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence each prong of the best interests of the child standard, N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a).*fn1 We disagree and affirm.
The Division became involved with this family on September 14, 2005, when it received a referral from L.E.G.'s pediatrician that the child was underweight. The doctor reported that the mother had complained of domestic abuse and that defendant used alcohol frequently. The Division investigated and learned that the family lived in a small room and was facing eviction proceedings for nonpayment of rent.
The Division opened a case to monitor the family and provide services. The Division provided financial services to address the back rent, arranged for a nurse to visit the home weekly to check on L.E.G.'s health, and arranged for in-home counseling. The counseling commenced in December 2005 and the mother reported that defendant hit her in November 2005, giving her a black eye.
On January 12, 2006, L.E.G. was admitted to the hospital due to continued concerns regarding her failure to gain weight. That same day, the Division received a second referral reporting that defendant was arrested for punching and threatening to kill the mother. The Division substantiated the allegation of abuse and neglect. Defendant remained incarcerated for the domestic violence incident from January 7 to March 8, 2006. The mother obtained a restraining order (RO) against defendant, which he violated repeatedly. The RO permitted defendant to apply for supervised visitation with L.E.G., but he did not.
On January 30, 2006, L.E.G. was admitted to an inpatient feeding program at Children's Specialized Hospital (CSH). In March 2006, CSH discharged L.E.G. and she was admitted to St. Clare's, a home for medically fragile children. In December 2006, St. Clare's discharged L.E.G.
Despite receiving notice, defendant failed to appear at two proceedings in March 2006 at which the court awarded care, custody, and supervision of L.E.G. -- then eleven months old --to the Division. The Division placed her in the home of her current caregivers, where she has thrived. L.E.G. currently enjoys a nurturing and loving home, and her caregivers wish to adopt her.
In April 2006, a caseworker contacted defendant but he refused to provide an address or say whether he was working. According to the caseworker, he told her that it was "none of her business." Between April 2006 and June 2006, the caseworker attempted to contact defendant without success. The caseworker learned that defendant had been arrested again on June 2006, but he made bail and disappeared. He was later arrested in January 2007 and incarcerated until June 2007. The Division's next contact with defendant was when he was incarcerated for a third arrest in January 2010.
On behalf of the Division, Dr. Karen Wells, a forensic psychologist, performed a psychological evaluation of defendant in May 2010, and a bonding evaluation of the foster father in May 2010. During his psychological evaluation, defendant stated to Dr. Wells that he had not (1) appeared in court because he wanted to avoid arrest warrants; (2) attended anger management counseling because he believed he had no problem; (3) cooperated with the Division because he did not like his caseworker; and (4) accepted any responsibility for L.E.G.'s removal. Dr. Wells opined that the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (MCMI) test results showed that defendant possesses a number of undesirable traits, including impulsiveness, untrustworthiness, irresponsibility, and undependability. She diagnosed defendant with "[m]ixed [p]ersonality [d]isorder, prominent anti-social and narcissistic features," and found "no clinical indication that [defendant] possesses the psychological and emotional capabilities to assume even minimal parental care and responsibility for [L.E.G.]."
After conducting the bonding evaluation of L.E.G. and her foster father, Dr. Wells concluded that L.E.G. had "a secure and intact child, parent bond." Dr. Wells opined that L.E.G. would suffer traumatically if she were removed from her foster family, and that defendant lacked the capacity to ...