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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. L.R.

January 10, 2012

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
L.R., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF H.G., A MINOR.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FG-07-22-11.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted November 15, 2011

Before Judges Yannotti, Espinosa and Kennedy.

L.R. appeals from an order entered by the Family Part on March 3, 2011, denying L.R.'s motion to vacate her identified surrender of parental rights to the minor child, H.G. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

I.

L.R. is H.G.'s biological mother and D.G. is the child's biological father. L.R. is also the biological mother of R.G., T.R. and A.G. On January 13, 2009, the Monroe Township police officer reported to the Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division) that officers from the department had pursued a vehicle registered to L.R. in a five-mile, high-speed chase.

The officer reported that, at the end of the chase, the vehicle flipped over when it attempted to enter the New Jersey Turnpike. L.R. was a passenger in the car, along with H.G., who was then one-month old. L.R. and H.G. were injured in the accident. It appears that the child's car seat had not been properly secured. L.R. and H.G. were transported to a hospital in New Brunswick.

The hospital reported to the Division that L.R. may have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The hospital additionally reported that the child was unkempt and unclean.

L.R. told the police that she had not been driving the car at the time of the accident. After investigating the matter, the police apparently came to believe that L.R. had been driving the car.

A.R., the child's maternal grandmother, also contacted the Division. She said that L.R., who has a history of paranoid schizophrenia, was taken off her medications two months prior to H.G.'s birth. According to A.R., L.R. was supposed to renew her medications after the child was born, but L.R. refused to do so. A.R. told the Division that she was taking care of two of L.R.'s children, R.G. and T.R. She said that H.G.'s paternal grandmother was going to care of H.G.

On February 5, 2009, the Division filed a complaint in the trial court seeking custody, care and supervision of H.G., R.G. and T.R. The court entered an order dated February 5, 2009, placing H.G. in the Division's custody, care and supervision. The court granted A.R. custody of R.G. and T.R., although the Division continued to have responsibility for their custody, care and supervision.

The trial court entered an order dated June 3, 2009, which stated that L.R. had waived her right to a fact-finding hearing on the issue of whether H.G. was an abused or neglected child.

The order stated that L.R. had admitted that she had intentionally not taken prescribed medication, which resulted in a lapse of judgment that created a risk of harm to H.G.

The court entered another order dated June 3, 2009, which continued the three children in the Division's custody, care and supervision. The order provided that A.R. would continue to have custody of R.G. and T.R., and that H.G.'s placement in a Division-approved resource home would continue. The order further provided that L.R. and D.G. would have supervised visitation with the children.

On September 9, 2009, the court entered an order stating that H.G. would continue in the Division's custody, care and supervision. A.R. was awarded legal and physical custody of the other two children, and they were dismissed from the litigation. The order additionally provided, among other things, that L.R. would comply with a treatment program; L.R. and D.G. would continue to attend parenting skills classes; L.R., D.G. and the children would attend family therapy; and L.R. and D.G. would have supervised visits with the children.

The court entered another order on December 9, 2009, transferring physical custody of H.G. to A.R. The order provided that L.R. would continue her drug-treatment program. The order noted that L.R. and D.G. had completed parenting skills classes.

The court conducted a permanency hearing on January 29, 2010, and entered an order on that date stating that the Division's plan was reunification of H.G. with her biological parents. H.G. remained in the Division's care, custody and supervision, although A.R. had custody of the child. The order stated that L.R. and D.G. would continue to have supervised visits with the child. Among other things, the order provided that L.R. would complete her psychotherapy treatment and comply with any treatment recommendations.

The court entered another order on January 29, 2010. The order stated that L.R.'s concentration and cognitive abilities were "mostly impaired by her relentless and always active psychotic process." It noted that both L.R. and D.G. had completed parenting skills classes, and D.G. had complied with the requests that had been made of him. However, the order noted that the Division was awaiting a psychological evaluation of D.G. to determine whether additional services were required.

Another compliance review took place on April 28, 2010, after which the court entered an order continuing H.G.'s placement with A.R. The order stated that L.R. would continue to comply with and complete her treatment; D.G. would comply with individual counseling at the Family Services Bureau (FSB); and D.G. would submit to an updated psychological evaluation.

The court conducted a second permanency hearing on June 23, 2010, and entered an order on that date stating that the Division's plan regarding H.G. had changed and it would seek termination of L.R.'s and D.G.'s parental rights to H.G., followed by adoption. Among other things, the June 23, 2010 order stated that L.R.'s psychiatric evaluation indicated that she would not be a suitable caretaker for H.G. now or in the foreseeable future due to her psychiatric condition.

The June 23, 2010 order also stated that the Division had discussed L.R.'s evaluation with her and D.G., and had also told D.G. that he must "present himself independent[ly]" of L.R. in order to continue working towards reunification. However, D.G. advised the Division he was unwilling to separate himself from

L.R. at the time.

The June 23, 2010 order additionally stated that the

Division had made reasonable efforts to finalize its permanency plan, and termination of L.R.'s and D.G.'s parental rights was appropriate. The Division was directed to file a guardianship complaint by August 4, 2010.

The Division filed its complaint on August 3, 2010. L.R. and D.G. appeared in court on September 7, 2010, as required, and they were represented by counsel. The court ordered L.R. to continue with her treatment, and directed D.G. to continue with his counseling at the FSB.

The court conducted a compliance review on October 28, 2010. L.R. and D.G. appeared in court. The Division advised the court that its evaluations were complete, and the court scheduled mediation for December 3, 2010. On November 3 and 12, 2010, Dr. Barry Katz (Dr. Katz) performed a psychological evaluation of L.R. and bonding evaluations of L.R., ...


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