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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. Y.T

February 24, 2012


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Union County, Docket No. FN-20-90-09.

Per curiam.



Submitted January 31, 2012

Before Judges Carchman and Baxter.

Defendant Y.T., the mother of Y.Q., born December 29, 2004, appeals from the Family Part order of March 11, 2011, finding Y.T. guilty of abuse and neglect and ordering that legal and physical custody of the child be awarded to the child's father, A.Q.*fn1 Judge Kathryn A. Brock concluded that the child could not be returned safely to defendant's care. We conclude that the judge's findings were based on substantial credible evidence and affirm.

The following facts are adduced from the record. For the first two years of Y.Q.'s life, the child lived with her mother, father, and maternal grandmother. When her parents separated, the child continued to live with her mother and grandmother.

On January 7, 2009, the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS or the Division) received a report from Trinitas Hospital (Trinitas) expressing concern for the child.*fn2

Defendant had brought the child into Trinitas by ambulance stating that the child needed to be seen "right away" because she "needed blood work," was "jaundice," and had "one leg . . . longer than the other." The hospital found nothing wrong with the child and believed defendant had a "psychiatric condition." At the time of this report, defendant was in restraints and scheduled to be seen by the crisis unit at the hospital. The next day, defendant was admitted to Trinitas for "bizarre behavior" and, thereafter, "aggressively treated" for bipolar disorder.

Within a week, defendant was admitted to the Inpatient Psychiatric Unit at Runnells Specialized Hospital (Runnells) with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She was transferred from Trinitas to Runnells because she required further inpatient psychological therapy, and during the course of defendant's treatment, the child remained in the care of her grandmother.

Defendant refused to sign a release authorizing DYFS to speak with her doctors. DYFS did learn, however, that defendant had been hospitalized at Trinitas six times. Defendant initially refused to take prescribed medication, claiming that "there is nothing wrong with her." Defendant eventually started taking her medication; she was discharged on February 9, 2009, at which time her mood had stabilized, and her thinking had become coherent.

That same day, DYFS caseworker Juan Emilio Ane met with defendant at her home. Ane had no immediate concerns regarding the child's well-being, except that she was visibly overweight. Ane attempted to discuss the discharge recommendations defendant had received from Runnells, but defendant was uncooperative and considered Ane's presence and questioning to be "intrusive." Defendant disagreed with Runnells' recommendation that she continue to take her medication or attend follow-up appointments with the Bridgeway Partial Care Program (Bridgeway). Ane repeatedly reinforced the need for defendant to follow Runnells' recommendations; however, defendant vacillated between understanding and not understanding that need, and ultimately "ma[de] the decision not to continue the medication."

On February 10, 2009, defendant called Ane; she was "very distressed," and "frantically" asserted that the child needed to see a pediatrician immediately because diabetes ran in her family and the cold medication the child was receiving "had high levels of sugar." When Ane asked defendant if she had taken her medication, she said no because she did not have time to pick it up from the pharmacy. Against Ane's recommendation, defendant took the child to a pediatrician. Defendant convinced the pediatrician to prescribe the child a different medication, but she "distrust[ed] the pediatrician." She informed Ane that she planned to change pediatricians and take the child to the emergency room later that day. She complained that the child had a runny nose and mucus in her eyes. Ane had not noticed those symptoms when he observed the child the night before. Ane again asked if defendant had obtained her medication; defendant responded that she was waiting for a neighbor to take her to the pharmacy.

That night, Ane visited defendant and the child at their home. Even though Ane observed the child and noticed she did not exhibit any eye problem, defendant continued to insist that a problem existed. When Ane asked whether defendant had her prescriptions, defendant contradicted her earlier statements by asserting that she was waiting for the medication to arrive by mail. Ane then completed a safety ...

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