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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. M.H

January 6, 2012


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Morris County, Docket No. FG-14-51-11.

Per curiam.



Submitted December 6, 2011

Before Judges Reisner and Simonelli.

Defendant M.H., the biological mother of M.J.H, born in June 2009, and G.A.H., born in April 2010, appeals from the January 28, 2011 Family Part order, which terminated her parental rights to the children. We affirm.

Defendant has been involved with plaintiff Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) since childhood. She resided in several foster placements since the age of two-andone-half, was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), and has chronic emotional difficulties that have negatively impacted her overall functioning and relationships with others. She lived in a residential treatment facility until the age of eighteen, when the Division placed her in a transitional living facility for persons with mental illness. Since 2007, the Division has provided individual therapy for defendant to address her underlying issues of abandonment and loss associated with her long history of childhood neglect and maltreatment.

Defendant became pregnant with M.J.H. at the age of nineteen, and was not permitted to continue living at the transitional living facility after the child's birth. Although she had made progress while at that facility, she was not yet capable of independent living. She also had no viable relative caretakers or family members who could assist her in caring for the child. The Division offered defendant a placement in a "Mommy and Me" program that would provide housing and support for her and her child. Defendant declined the placement, and decided to live with A.D.,*fn1 a thirty-nine-year-old man she had met at a soup kitchen where they obtained their meals. A.D. had anger issues, smoked marijuana daily, and viewed pornographic videos in his home. Defendant claimed she had a platonic relationship with A.D. and her plan was to move into his home, co-parent M.J.H. with him, and allow him to adopt the child.*fn2

Defendant had no plan for the future in the event her relationship with A.D. terminated.

In December 2008, the Division referred defendant for a psychological evaluation to assess her ability to parent. The evaluation revealed that defendant "has a significant history of loss, abandonment, rejection, disrupted placements, neglect and abuse . . . [which have] resulted in significant attachment difficulties that underlie her poor decision making, poor choices in men and impulsivity[.]"*fn3 The evaluation also disclosed that defendant was motivated by her emotional neediness, would prioritize her desire to meet her emotional needs over M.J.H.'s needs, lacked insight into her poor judgment and poor decision making, and had cognitive limitations that may play a role in some of her difficulties. The evaluation concluded that defendant was a "high-risk parent for child neglect." Also, defendant's therapist concluded that defendant "continue[d] to be in need of transitional services[,]" did "not appear capable of making therapeutic changes[,]" had poor insight and judgment, needed "long-term concrete services and monitoring that will assist her with daily living skills, hands-on parenting skills, occupational skills and housing/financial needs[,]" and did not appear capable of independent living "[g]iven her developmental age (young teen)[.]"

The Division decided to obtain custody of M.J.H. after his birth based on defendant's psychological evaluation, her lack of progress with services, and concerns raised by her plan to co-parent with A.D. The Division did not advise defendant of its decision because it feared she would flee with the child. The Division placed M.J.H. in a foster home after his birth, and provided services to defendant and A.D., including individual therapy, parenting classes, and therapeutic supervised visitation, as well as anger management for A.D.

In June 2009, the Division referred A.D. for a psychological evaluation, which concluded as follows:

[A.D.] is not sufficiently stable to function as an appropriate caretaker for [M.J.H.] He exhibits cognitive limitations, significant difficulties coping with stress, and difficulty managing difficult situations. He also exhibits significant anger management difficulties. [He] tends to be impulsive, self-centered, emotionally volatile, and emotionally needy. He does not have the frustration tolerance to prioritize a child's needs over his own. [He] does not recognize [defendant's] parenting limitations and therefore, does not provide a neglect risk lowering influence in this household. He is deficient in parenting skills. [His] intellectual screening indicated that he functions in the mentally retarded range.

In October 2009, the Division referred defendant for a cognitive assessment, which revealed concerns about her maturity level and impulsivity, and concluded that her low test scores on the verbal comprehension subtest "can affect her judgment, daily living skills, and ability to problem solve. These deficits can ...

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