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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. M.V.S

February 9, 2012

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
M.V.S., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF A.L.S., A MINOR.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FG-07-0043-10.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 10, 2012

Before Judges Messano, Yannotti and Espinosa.

Defendant M.V.S. appeals from the December 3, 2010 order of the Family Part terminating her parental rights to her daughter, A.L.S. Defendant raises the following issues on appeal:

THE DECISION TO TERMINATE M.V.S.'S PARENTAL RIGHTS WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY ADEQUATE, SUBSTANTIAL AND CREDIBLE EVIDENCE.

A. PRONG 3: THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT DYFS HAD DEMONSTRATED, BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE, THAT REASONABLE EFFORTS WERE MADE TO PROVIDE THE MOTHER WITH APPROPRIATE SERVICES.

B. PRONG 4: THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT DYFS HAD DEMONSTRATED, BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE, THAT TERMINATION OF M.V.S.'S PARENTAL RIGHTS WILL NOT DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD TO A.L.S.

Having considered these arguments in light of the record and applicable legal standards, we affirm.

I

Defendant had an extensive history with the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS or the Division) that preceded the birth of A.L.S. in October 2008. One son was in the legal custody of a family member, and DYFS provided supervisory services to the child through 2006, when the case was closed. Defendant's parental rights to her other two children were terminated in prior guardianship proceedings brought by the Division.

On September 29, 2008, DYFS received a referral from Newark Beth Israel Hospital after defendant appeared there pregnant, not feeling well, and apparently under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The Division unsuccessfully attempted to contact defendant over the next few days. On October 24, defendant, after testing positive for cocaine and heroin, delivered A.L.S., who tested positive for benzodiazepines, cocaine and opiates at birth. Defendant admitted abusing drugs for "many years," and acknowledged she sought no prenatal care during her pregnancy. A.L.S. was transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit after exhibiting "generalized twitching and jerky movement of [her] upper and lower extremities."

On October 29, DYFS filed a verified complaint seeking custody of A.L.S.*fn1 The judge entered an order to show cause and temporarily awarded care, custody and supervision of the child to DYFS. DYFS contacted defendant's sister and niece regarding their willingness to accept custody of A.L.S. Both women indicated they were unable to care for A.L.S., and DYFS sent them "rule-out" letters. On November 20, 2008, DYFS placed A.L.S. in an approved resource home with Ms. K. Shortly thereafter, DYFS arranged visitation for defendant and scheduled defendant for a substance abuse assessment.

When defendant missed her visitation on December 23, 2008, the Division attempted to contact her without success. One month later, DYFS learned that defendant was incarcerated based upon old warrants charging her with possession of drug paraphernalia. Defendant was unable to attend her substance abuse assessment because she was incarcerated.

Defendant did not appear at a fact-finding hearing on January 6, 2009. The judge entered an ...


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