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

April 11, 2012


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FN-09-174-08.

Per curiam.



Submitted October 11, 2011

Before Judges A. A. Rodriguez, Ashrafi and Fasciale.

T.T., the birth mother of three children -- J.T., a girl born in October 2003; C.D., a girl born in June 2005; and G.D., a boy born in May 2006 -- appeals essentially from a finding by clear and convincing evidence that she abused and neglected her children.*fn1 The birth fathers were not named in the complaint.*fn2 We reverse the finding of abuse or neglect. On August 20, 2010, the Family Part entered an order terminating the abuse or neglect action (Title 9 proceeding).*fn3 This was done because a complaint for termination of parental rights (Title 30 proceeding) had been filed by the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS).*fn4 We reverse the finding of abuse or neglect.

These are the relevant facts. The events triggering the abuse and neglect complaint occurred in the September 2007 to January 2008 time span. By way of background, DYFS has been involved with T.T. since she was a child. Caseworker Grace Amaechi was assigned to T.T.'s case from 2005 to June 2008. She testified that in March 2006, DYFS removed J.T. and C.D. from T.T.'s home because the family was about to be evicted. DYFS also wanted to undertake a psychological evaluation of T.T., but T.T. refused.

Three months later, T.T.'s housing situation improved. The Family Part ordered DYFS to reunify the children with T.T., and six days later, the family was reunited.

In September 2006, T.T. experienced a seizure while at a meeting at a DYFS office. She was transported to the hospital. Amaechi went to T.T.'s home to ensure the children would be cared for. She found the children under the supervision of T.T.'s brother. Amaechi found the home dirty and the children inappropriately dressed. As a result, DYFS executed a Dodd emergency removal.*fn5 Four months later, DYFS returned the children to T.T.

On September 21, 2006, shortly after the seizure incident, Robert Kanen, Psy.D., conducted a confidential psychological evaluation of T.T. This report was admitted into evidence.

T.T. informed Dr. Kanen that she was raised in Hoboken by her mother until the age of nine. Then she was placed in foster care and lived in group homes. Her mother lives in Newark and has a history of mental illness. Her father lives in Albany, New York and has had drug and alcohol problems in the past.

T.T. graduated from high school in 2000 after studying in the regular curriculum. She denied any learning problems or special classifications. Prior to the birth of her first child, she performed housekeeping and worked at a nursing home. T.T. reported to Dr. Kanen that her second child, her daughter J.D., is autistic.

During the interview, T.T. was oriented as to time, place and person. She was cooperative, her behavior was controlled, she was not in any distress, and she was alert and responsive. Her thought processes were logical and coherent. She reported no auditory hallucinations, delusions, or any unusual perceptual experiences. She reported no problems with sleep and did not feel depressed. She denied having any temper control problems, or a history of psychiatric hospitalizations.

T.T. has suffered from a seizure disorder her entire life. She has taken Dilantin for seizures, but she could not take this medicine during her pregnancies. Therefore, she had a few seizures during her pregnancies. Her last seizure was just before she gave birth to her son, G.D., in May 2006.

According to Dr. Kanen, T.T. has an IQ of 94, placing her in the average range of intelligence. She showed no evidence of cognitive limitations. Her responses to interview questions and tests indicated that she is not mentally ill. There was no evidence of a thought disorder, major depression, delusional disorder, bipolar disorder or dysthmia. There was no evidence of alcohol or drug abuse. There was no indication of antisocial tendencies. She appeared capable of functioning adequately in ...

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