On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FN-04-0479-10-C.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 13, 2011
Before Judges Waugh and St. John.
Defendant R.J.J. (Roberta)*fn1 appeals from the September 27, 2010 order of the Family Part finding that she abused her son A.J. (Albert) and daughter C.B.P. (Carol). We affirm, although we direct modification of the order to reflect that the abuse occurred to Albert only.
We discern the following facts and procedural history from the record on appeal.
On April 23, 2010, the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) received a referral from Albert's school that Albert, who was then eleven years old, had told his teacher that his mother had beaten him with a belt on April 21, 2010. The teacher observed, among other marks, red, black, and blue bruising under the left eye and extending over the nose. Albert told the teacher that his mother hit him in the face with a belt.
A DYFS caseworker interviewed Albert at school on April 26. He told the caseworker that his mother hit him on his arms, chest, back, and face with a belt because he had talked back in class. According to Albert, his mother started hitting him while they were downstairs. When she hit him on the leg, he fell and hit his face on some furniture. After his mother picked him up, he ran up the stairs. When he was upstairs, his mother hit him in the face with the belt.
Although Albert told the caseworker that this was the first time he was hit with the belt, he reported that his mother sometimes punched him in the chest or slapped him in the back of the head when he got in trouble. He also told the caseworker that he was afraid of his mother because she is "always hitting" him. The caseworker observed light scabbing on Albert's chest, as well as a bruise on his shoulder. She also observed that Albert's eye was black, and he had a mark on each of his arms, neck, and forehead.
The caseworker interviewed Roberta at her home on the same day. The DYFS report reflects the following:
Worker asked what his form of discipline was when he came home. [Roberta] stated that when [Albert] arrived she asked him what happened and he told her. She admitted to hitting [Albert] with a belt on his arm and back approximately [three to four] times. Worker asked how he received the black eye. [Roberta] corrected worker and stated that he has a bruise under his eye. Worker informed her that his eye is bruised however there is some swelling on the lid. She reported that [Albert] ducked to keep from being hit and she caught him in the face with the belt. She stated that no one else was home at the time.
Worker asked how [Albert] is usually disciplined and she stated that she usually takes things away or he's not allowed outside. She stated that he gets yelled at for not doing things around the house but she doesn't really have a problem with him at home. [Roberta] reported that [Albert] has been having a problem with his teacher this year and she couldn't have him threatening his teacher. She stated that he's fine with all of his other teachers, but his main teacher and he don't see eye to eye.
The records of a medical examination on April 27, six days after the incident, reflect that Albert had visible "bruising on the left side of [his] forehead, . . . under [his] left eye, . . . [and] on both upper arms, and [an] upper back bruise was reported."
DYFS filed a complaint seeking care and custody of Albert and Carol on May 14, 2010. The resulting order to show cause was heard on May 17, at which time Roberta consented to entry of an order giving care and supervision to DYFS. She retained custody and agreed to participate in services.
On September 2, the Family Part judge held a pre-hearing conference. The Deputy Attorney General (DAG) representing DYFS told the judge that she would be offering a DYFS report and photographs ...