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

May 3, 2012


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FG-07-188-10.

Per curiam.



Submitted March 27, 2012

Before Judges Yannotti, Espinosa and Guadagno.

M.M.B. appeals from an order entered by the Family Part on May 10, 2011, terminating her parental rights to N.K.T.W. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

We briefly summarize the relevant facts. In January 2009, a social worker at a hospital reported to the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) that M.M.B., who was then twenty-four years old and in the second trimester of her pregnancy, had not received prenatal care, admitted she regularly used cocaine, and acknowledged that she suffered from bipolar disorder. M.M.B. said that T.W. was the child's father. After M.M.B. was released from the hospital, she met with one of the Division's caseworkers and entered into a case plan, wherein she agreed to receive prenatal care.

M.M.B. gave birth to N.K.T.W. on February 10, 2009. Both M.M.B. and N.K.T.W. tested positive for cocaine. The hospital's records indicate that N.K.T.W. suffered withdrawal as a result of his exposure to drugs. The Division determined that child abuse or neglect had been substantiated, and filed a complaint in the Family Part seeking custody, care and supervision of N.K.T.W. pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21 and N.J.S.A. 30:4C-12.

On February 18, 2009, the court granted the Division's application and placed the child in the Division's custody, care and supervision. That day, the Division referred M.M.B. for a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counseling (CADC) substance abuse assessment at Catholic Charities. The Division learned on February 24, 2009, that M.M.B. was in jail. N.K.T.W. was discharged from the hospital on February 26, 2009, and was placed in a foster home.

M.M.B. was released from jail on April 3, 2009, but she did not inform the Division of her release. Later that month, M.M.B. was again referred for a CADC assessment, which took place on April 20, 2009. M.M.B. was referred for outpatient drug treatment. The Division provided M.M.B. with bus transportation to the treatment program. M.M.B. did not attend the program on a regular basis, and she stopped attending after a month. The Division thereafter referred M.M.B. to another drug treatment program.

In May 2009, Barry M. Katz, Ph.D. (Dr. Katz) performed a psychological evaluation of defendant. Dr. Katz recommended that M.M.B. (1) complete a psychiatric evaluation; (2) complete a parenting course; (3) establish a stable home and source of income; (4) continue substance abuse treatment; (5) continue to have frequent urine screens; and (6) attend individual psychotherapy for a minimum of three to six months.

In June 2009, the Division attempted to contact M.M.B. at her mother's home, where she had been living. M.M.B.'s mother reported that M.M.B. was no longer living there. She also said that she thought E.J. was the child's father not T.W. The Division also attempted to establish weekly visitations between M.M.B. and N.K.T.W., but M.M.B. only attended those visits on a sporadic basis. Furthermore, M.M.B. did not establish stable housing during the time the Division was involved with the family, and she failed to maintain regular contact with the Division.

The Division assessed M.M.B.'s mother as a potential caretaker for N.K.T.W. but determined that she was not capable of assuming that responsibility due to her health problems and financial difficulties. The Division also contacted M.M.B.'s sister, J.B.B., who was living in Virginia, and asked if she had an interest in acting as caretaker for N.K.T.W. She did not respond to the Division's inquiry.

In July 2009, Catholic Charities informed the Division that M.M.B. had not complied with the requirements of her drug treatment program. M.M.B. was referred to Drug Court, but her participation was terminated for non-compliance with program requirements. In August 2009, M.M.B. entered a hospital in New York for detoxification, and she was discharged two days later. M.M.B. was ...

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