On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, FG-02-85-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 28, 2011
Before Judges Fuentes, Graves and Harris.
Defendant M.V. is the biological mother of J.M., a boy now five years old. She appeals from the judgment of the Family Part terminating her parental rights to her son. She argues that the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS or the Division) failed to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination of her parental rights was warranted under the four statutory prongs in N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1.
After reviewing the record before us, we reject these arguments and affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by the trial court.
Defendant's involvement with DYFS dates back to her own childhood, when her school district and DYFS brought legal action against her mother F.V., as a response to defendant's chronic truancy problems. The litigation ended in January 2001 due to non-compliance by F.V. and defendant's intention to pursue a general education diploma in lieu of completing a traditional high school education.
Defendant has given birth to two boys: G.V. born in 2002, and J.M., the subject of this appeal, who was born in 2006. The children have different fathers; defendant has never married. Defendant's initial involvement with DYFS as a parent occurred in 2002. From 2002 to 2004, the Division received a number of referrals that upon further investigation it deemed unsubstantiated.
The first serious incident occurred in March 2004, when DYFS received a hospital referral indicating that defendant had attempted suicide "by ingesting several different kinds of pills" after "two verbal disputes with her mother [F.V.]" Defendant was hospitalized for five days. The Division executed an emergency removal of G.V., placing him in foster care as an interim measure,*fn1 and referred defendant to a substance abuse program. The Division returned physical custody of G.V. to defendant on July 30, 2004, but retained care and supervision of the child until November 18, 2004, when the case was dismissed.
DYFS continued to receive referrals concerning defendant's inability to care properly for G.V. throughout 2005 and 2006. The referrals alleged lack of adult supervision. On December 6, 2006, the Division received an anonymous referral alleging that defendant and her mother were addicted to pain medication and, as a result, four-year-old G.V. and then two-month old J.M. were not being properly supervised. Because defendant and her mother refused to cooperate, the Division obtained a court order directing both of them to submit to substance abuse evaluations. The local police department also reported incidents of domestic violence involving defendant and her mother.
On August 20, 2007, DYFS received a referral that defendant had stolen prescription pads. The following day, defendant admitted to a Division worker that she had been arrested three weeks earlier for stealing prescription pads, and that she was addicted to Percocet, a prescription pain medication. Defendant told the Division representative that she had gone to a detoxification program at the Meadowlands Hospital. The Division ultimately found that the allegations of neglect were unfounded.
On September 13, 2007, DYFS received another referral alleging that defendant and her mother were abusing drugs. Once again the Division did not find any evidence of neglect, and consequently did not offer or recommend drug-related services. Despite this, defendant informed her DYFS case worker of her intention to enter a drug treatment program. Defendant voluntarily gave custody of then one-year-old J.M. and ...