On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FG-09-109-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 20, 2011
Before Judges Messano, Yannotti and Espinosa.
M.M. appeals from an order entered by the Family Part on August 9, 2010, which terminated her parental rights to the minor child, N.E., and awarded guardianship of the child to the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
M.M. gave birth to N.E. on November 6, 2003. At the time, M.M. had three other children. Two of them are now adults. The other child was F.M., who was born on February 17, 1993. In December 2004, N.E.'s maternal grandmother contacted the Division and reported that M.M. was abusing drugs, sold her food stamps to obtain money for drugs, and drug users were coming in and out of M.M.'s home. The Division investigated the referral and determined that N.E. was not in immediate harm. The Division chose, however, to monitor M.M. On May 18, 2005, M.M. missed an appointment for a drug test and two days later she tested positive for cocaine and cannabinoids.
On June 2, 2005, an anonymous caller reported to the Division that M.M. was using drugs. The Division investigated the report and on June 3, 2005, M.M. tested positive for marijuana. She admitted that she used that drug on occasion. The Division determined that the report of child abuse and neglect had been substantiated.
On June 20, 2005, the Division filed an application with the trial court and was awarded custody, care and supervision of N.E. and F.M. The Division placed N.E. with D.R., a family friend. F.M. was placed with his paternal grandparents, who subsequently adopted him.
In June 2005, after consulting with a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor, the Division recommended that M.M. enroll in an inpatient drug treatment program. She refused. In July 2005, M.M. informed the court that she would not enroll in a drug program. The court conducted a fact-finding hearing on October 13, 2005, and based on M.M.'s history of drug use, found that M.M. neglected N.E. and F.M. In March 2006, after a drug abuse assessment and psychological evaluation, the Division arranged for M.M. to attend an intensive outpatient substance abuse program.
On March 30, 2006, the trial court conducted a compliance review and ordered M.M. to continue drug treatment, attend a parenting skills program, and obtain employment. The court also ordered the Division to refer M.M. to a vocational program, provide her with a bus pass, assist her in obtaining Section 8 housing assistance, and provide her with a security deposit for an apartment. In April 2006, M.M. tested positive for cocaine.
In June 2006, the trial court conducted a permanency hearing. The court found that N.E. and F.M. could not be returned to M.M. in the foreseeable future because she tested positive for drugs in April 2006, and because she had not made sufficient progress in a drug treatment program. The court approved the Division's plan to appoint D.R. as N.E.'s kinship legal guardian.
In December 2006, the Division determined that D.R. did not have appropriate sleeping arrangements for her children and N.E. Furthermore, D.R. refused to change the sleeping arrangements so that her apartment could be licensed for foster care. D.R. suggested her parents, M.A. and L.A., as N.E.'s caretakers.
It appears, however, that M.A. and L.A. lived in an apartment that also could not be licensed. The Division informed M.A. and L.A. that N.E. could be placed with them if they moved to a suitable apartment. In the meantime, D.R. continued to care for N.E. and the Division arranged for M.M. to have bi-weekly supervised visits with her. In June 2007, the Division removed N.E. from D.R.'s home because of a report that D.R. was using drugs. The child was placed with D.W. and M.S.
In May 2007, N.E.'s biological father, V.E., contacted the Division and expressed an interest in taking custody of N.E. At the time, V.E. was living in Florida with his wife and their children. The court entered an order on June 14, 2007 granting the Division time in which to explore placement of N.E. with her father. In July 2007, the Division's caseworkers took N.E. to Florida to visit V.E. and his family. Thereafter, the court approved the Division's plan to reunite N.E. with her father at an appropriate time.
On December 21, 2007, M.M. gave birth prematurely to a drug-exposed baby girl, J.M. In February 2008, M.M. tested positive for cocaine and thereafter the Division referred her to a substance abuse program. On February 15, 2008, the Division filed a complaint seeking custody of J.M. J.M. was placed in foster care in November of 2008. On December 31, 2008, J.M. was placed with M.A., M.M.'s family friend.
In March 2008, M.M. was discharged from an outpatient drug treatment program because she tested positive for cocaine. On March 27, 2008, the court ordered M.M. to complete an inpatient drug treatment program, secure a job and establish a stable home. On March 29, 2008, M.M. again tested positive for cocaine.
The court entered an order on June 26, 2008, approving the Division's plan to terminate M.M.'s parental rights to N.E. followed by adoption by a relative or N.E.'s current foster parents, D.W. and M.S. In June 2008, M.M.'s "case" at a drug treatment program was "closed" due to lack of attendance and ...