On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Ocean County, Docket No. FN-15-88-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 16, 2011
Before Judges Fuentes, Harris, and Koblitz.
Defendant Harold G. (a pseudonym) appeals the August 11, 2010 order of the Family Part finding that he abused and neglected his daughters Teresa and Gabriela (both pseudonyms). Harold does not appeal the court's October 14, 2010 order accepting his voluntary surrender of parental rights. We affirm.
On August 9, 2006, the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) received a referral from the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office detailing concerns for the safety and welfare of then thirteen-year-old Teresa and twelve-year-old Gabriela who were in their father's care. Information was received indicating that Teresa had disclosed that she had sexual intercourse with her father on two occasions and that Gabriela had alleged that her father fondled her breasts. After an investigation that concluded with the girls' denials, these allegations of sexual abuse were deemed unfounded by DYFS.
One year later, on August 12, 2007, DYFS received another referral citing concerns for the safety and welfare of Gabriela while in her father's care. It was reported that Gabriela ran away from home after a confrontation with her father and stepmother about allegedly having sexual relations with her boyfriend. Gabriela informed DYFS that the prior allegations of sexual abuse by her father were true and that she had lied when she denied them one year earlier. After another investigation and a year-long involvement with the family, DYFS closed the case after determining that "there is no abuse or neglect at this time. Family is functioning adequately."
On November 23, 2009, DYFS received yet another referral, this time from Gabriela's and Teresa's high school counselor, citing concerns for the girls' safety and welfare, again while in their father's care. The referral included Gabriela's and Teresa's allegations that their father "consistently [left] them home alone for at least 2-3 days without money, food, or emergency contact information." Gabriela once again stated that her recantation of prior sexual abuse by her father was dishonest. Gabriela was reported as indicating that "the allegations were in fact true but she was afraid of being removed from the home."
In furtherance of its investigation, DYFS contacted the local police department and a school official. Teresa and Gabriela were interviewed. The police depoartment conducted its own investigation. The girls reaffirmed their most recent allegations. Consequently, DYFS executed a "Dodd removal" of the girls from their father's home.*fn1
The next day, pre-placement physicals of the girls were conducted and concerns noted. Teresa reported chronic back pain and pain in her rib cage. Gabriela had a scar on her shoulder, which she claimed was a result of her father hitting her with a table.
On November 25, 2009, Dr. Steven Kairys examined the girls at the Child Protection Center at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Dr. Kairys concluded that Teresa presented "longstanding physical and sexual abuse." As to Gabriela, Dr. Kairys concluded that she had "very high concerns of sexual and physical abuse." He recommended that both girls receive "full evaluation[s] for sexual assault."
Teresa and Gabriela later disclosed at least twelve incidents of abuse by their father. These included inappropriate touching and fondling, sexual contact, physical abuse, leering, and encouragement to ingest controlled dangerous substances.
Fact-finding hearings were held in the Family Part in 2010.
Gabriela and Teresa repeated their allegations of abuse separately during in camera examinations. Gabriela explained what occurred when she sought help from adults. She noted that she told her mother what her father was doing and that her mother instructed that they tell their stepmother, which they did to no avail. The stepmother called them liars and told their ...