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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. N.G

October 31, 2011

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
N.G., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF Y.K.G, MINOR.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Mercer County, Docket No. FG-11-20-10.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 12, 2011

Before Judges Payne, Reisner and Hayden.

Defendant N.G. appeals from a final order dated October 29, 2010, terminating her parental rights to her child Y.K.G. On this appeal, she raises one issue:

THE DIVISION DID NOT MEET ITS BURDEN UNDER PRONG THREE BY IMPROPERLY RULING OUT POTENTIAL RELATIVE CARE-GIVERS IN ITS EFFORT TO HAVE Y.K.G. PLACED FOR ADOPTION.

Having reviewed the record, we find no merit in this argument, and we affirm.

I The factual background is addressed at length in Judge Audrey P. Blackburn's comprehensive oral opinion of October 29, 2010, and need not be repeated in the same detail here. The record overwhelmingly supports the judge's finding that N.G. is incapable of acting as a parent to Y.K.G., and on this appeal, defendant does not contest that determination.

To summarize, N.G. was fifteen when Y.K.G. was born on May 26, 2008. N.G., a rebellious and emotionally troubled teenager with substance abuse problems, was unable and unwilling to care for the baby. The Division of Youth and Family Services (Division or DYFS) took custody of the child on an emergent basis on July 30, 2008. Despite the Division's best efforts, N.G. ran away from, failed to attend, or failed to cooperate with, every one of the numerous programs DFYS found for her. Eventually, she was arrested on car theft and other charges. She was institutionalized in a Juvenile Justice Commission facility at the time of the guardianship trial.

Y.K.G. has lived with the same foster parent since he was two months old. While he has no bond with N.G., he has bonded with his foster mother who wishes to adopt him. The State presented expert testimony that the child will suffer severe and permanent psychological damage if he is separated from his foster mother. That testimony, which the judge found credible, was unrebutted.

At the trial, DYFS also presented testimony detailing the agency's efforts to place the child with various relatives. N.G.'s mother was unable to care for the child because she was bed-ridden after having a leg amputated. She also had an open DYFS file concerning N.G. The agency considered placing the child with his great-grandmother, C.S., but she was initially ruled out after being arrested on charges that she assaulted N.G. in front of several police officers. Those charges were eventually resolved.

After a family team meeting, which N.G. attended, the agency focused on placing the child with his paternal grandmother, T.D. However, those efforts fell through, first because of concerns that the child's father was living with T.D.,*fn1 and then because T.D. did not obtain appropriate housing for many months. Meanwhile, the child was living with, and bonding with, his foster mother. After sending repeated letters telling T.D. that she would be ruled out if she did not respond to the agency's concerns, the Division notified T.D. that she had been eliminated from consideration in the child's best interests. T.D. did not object to that determination, and she did not testify at the guardianship trial.

However, the maternal great-grandmother, C.S., testified at the trial that she was willing to care for the child. She testified that DYFS originally informed her that the agency would focus on placing the child with T.D. but would consider her as a second choice if that fell through. C.S. did not object to the child being placed with T.D. She also did not visit the child more than once or twice, although she could have accompanied N.G. to her weekly ...


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