On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FN-09-228-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 1, 2011
Before Judges Yannotti, Espinosa and Kennedy.
Defendant Y.C. appeals from an order entered by the Family Part on January 19, 2011, which terminated this litigation and provided that Y.C.'s biological child, J.U., shall remain in the legal and physical custody of J.L.U., the child's biological father. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
J.U. was born on October 28, 2009. Two days later, the hospital reported to the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) that Y.C. was suffering from post-partum depression, had attempted suicide in the seventh month of her pregnancy and reported that J.L.U. had physically abused her while she was pregnant.
The Division's caseworker interviewed Y.C., who admitted that she had a history of untreated depression. Y.C. additionally confirmed that she previously had attempted to commit suicide and that J.L.U. had physically abused her. The caseworker also interviewed M.S. and F.F., the persons with whom Y.C. was residing, and J.L.U.
On November 4, 2009, Y.C. and J.U. were discharged from the hospital. Y.C. and J.L.U. agreed to a care plan that included daily home visits, post-partum counseling for Y.C. and a alcohol and drug evaluation for J.L.U. On November 18, 2009, the Division conducted a home visit during which Y.C. admitted drinking alcohol early in her pregnancy but denied substance abuse problems. The Division required Y.C. to undergo drug, alcohol and psychiatric evaluations.
On November 30, 2009, M.S. reported to the Division that she had refused to allow J.L.U. in her home. According to M.S., Y.C. became very upset and moved with J.U. into J.L.U.'s apartment. M.S. said that she was concerned about their living conditions.
On November 30, 2009, the Division's investigator went to J.L.U.'s apartment. The investigator found that the sole source of heat in the apartment was a space heater in one of the rooms. The Division also found that J.L.U. was sharing the apartment with several men. The Division arranged for Y.C. and J.U. to return to M.S.'s and F.F.'s residence. The Division and Y.C. agreed to a plan that required Y.C. to undergo psychiatric and substance abuse treatment and continue with post-partum counseling.
On December 1, 2009, Dr. Alvaro Gutierrez (Dr. Gutierrez) performed a psychiatric evaluation of Y.C. On that date, J.L.U. also appeared for a substance abuse evaluation but no treatment was recommended. On December 17, 2009, a Division caseworker visited M.S.'s and F.F's residence. Y.C. informed the caseworker that she had stopped taking one of her prescribed medications. Y.C. also said that she had been attending post-partum counseling sessions but expressed reservations about other counseling services.
On December 24, 2009, Y.C. informed the Division that she intended to move with J.U. to J.L.U.'s new apartment. The Division was concerned about Y.C.'s prior allegations of domestic violence and Y.C.'s ability to care for J.U. without assistance from M.S. The Division's representative met with Y.C. and J.L.U. on December 28, 2009, to review these concerns.
At the meeting, the Division also reviewed the results of Dr. Gutierrez's recent psychiatric evaluation. Dr. Gutierrez had determined that Y.C. was not able to protect J.U. from potentially serious harm if she were reunited with J.L.U. Dr. Gutierrez had also determined that there was a "high risk" that Y.C. would abuse or neglect the child due to her "history of depression and suicidal ideations." In his report, Dr. Gutierrez wrote that Y.C. was suffering from a depressive disorder and recommended medication, psychotherapy, parenting skills classes, substance abuse treatment, and participation in domestic violence and anger management groups.
According to the Division, Y.C. did not comprehend or appropriately respond to the Division's concerns. Y.C. told the caseworker that she had informed J.L.U. she would not tolerate any domestic violence but she intended to continue her relationship with J.L.U. because he provided her with financial support. Y.C. denied that J.L.U. had kicked her in the stomach while she was pregnant, contrary to what she told the investigator previously.
In addition, Y.C. told the caseworker the Division "was making too many recommendations and she needed to work to support her other children in Honduras." She stated that she was no longer taking one of her medications because it made her drowsy. She said that the Division's services "were a waste of time."
The Division effected an emergency removal of the child on December 28, 2009. The following day, the Division filed a verified complaint in the Family Part naming Y.C. and J.L.U. as defendants. In the complaint, the Division recounted its involvement with defendants, and alleged that J.U. had been abused and/or neglected. On December 30, 2009, the court issued an order finding, among other things, that ...