On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Ocean County, Docket No. FG-15-37-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted April 17, 2012 -
Before Judges Payne, Simonelli and Hayden.
D.S., the mother of T.B., a daughter born in 1997, and R.B., her father, appeal from an order of September 9, 2010 terminating their parental rights to the child.
The record discloses that, on September 15, 2005, the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) responded to reports of neglect of T.B. by her parents who were known heroin users. Prior to that date, there had been seven referrals regarding the family. Although the reports of neglect were found to be unsubstantiated, on September 26, 2005, the court granted DYFS an order to show cause seeking care and supervision of T.B. Thereafter, on October 14, 2005, neglect was substantiated when it was determined that T.B. had been left home unattended. D.S., who had initially hidden from the DYFS worker to avoid a drug test, appeared to be under the influence of drugs and admitted to taking Methadone and Percocet. On that same day, DYFS received confirmation that a urine sample taken from R.B. a few days earlier was positive for cocaine. T.B. was therefore removed from her parents' custody, and on October 18, 2005, the court entered an order granting custody of the child to DYFS. The parents have never regained custody.
On November 30, 2005, D.S. attended substance abuse and psychological evaluations. At that time, she disclosed a criminal history commencing in the late 1980s, a history of substance abuse beginning as a teenager and a history of suicide attempts, with the most recent attempt being in 2001. She also stated to the evaluator that she had been jailed four times in 2005 and had four pending charges, two for drug possession and two for violation of probation.
During 2005, D.S. received drug treatment at Project Recovery. However, her attendance was sporadic, and on two occasions she tested positive for drugs.
On January 27, 2006, D.S. pled guilty to possession of a controlled dangerous substance with the intent to distribute, forgery, shoplifting, and violation of probation. She was sentenced to a five-year prison term with a one-year parole disqualifier.
In February 2007, D.S. was evaluated by psychologist Dr. Alan Lee. She disclosed to him that, in addition to her present charges, she had been arrested for crimes including shoplifting on approximately twenty occasions, driving with a revoked license on five occasions, theft on five to ten occasions, writing bad checks on seven occasions, and domestic violence. She additionally reported various detentions in county jails and periods of probation, as well as a lengthy juvenile history.
D.S. admitted to having used marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and LSD, as well as abusing prescription drugs. Her last employment was at a Burger King in 1990. Since then, D.S. stated that her income was based on Social Security disability, welfare and food stamp benefits. She reported that she had been diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and agoraphobia and stated that she had undergone approximately five psychiatric hospitalizations.
Following testing, Dr. Lee concluded that D.S. had average intelligence. However, she demonstrated antisocial traits and was self-absorbed, impulsive, needy, unhappy, angry, and hostile. She was not empathetic and had a strong sense of self-entitlement based on her belief that she had an unfortunate childhood. Dr. Lee found D.S. to be chronically depressed, suffering from anxiety and subject to panic attacks. She could not regulate her emotions, and as a result had occasions of explosive anger. The doctor found D.S. to be at "strikingly" high risk for continued substance abuse and criminal recidivism.
Overall, he determined that she had deeply rooted character traits that would prevent her from properly caring for a minor child.
In April 2007, D.S. was transferred to an intensive supervision program. However, on May 12, 2007, she left the program without approval, but was located in September 2007 in connection with an investigation occurring after the murder of another daughter. At the time, she was incarcerated in the Ocean County jail for credit card fraud, theft and forgery. She remained in jail until January 2008, when she was transferred to State prison to complete her term. She expected to receive a further three-year sentence for absconding, and to be released from prison in 2009.
In June 2008, D.S. was again evaluated by Dr. Lee. In his report following the evaluation, the doctor noted that D.S. had abandoned T.B. during her brief release from prison. Although D.S. reported that she was "changed" and wished to be reunited with T.B., re-engage with R.B., purchase a home, attend substance abuse treatment, and obtain employment, the doctor determined that she remained at high risk for criminal recidivism and substance abuse relapse. He did not support D.S.'s involvement as a caretaker for T.B., finding that she still suffered from immaturity, impulsivity, and poor coping skills. D.S., he thought, was still very self-absorbed, anxious and angry, and she had repeated difficulty conforming to society's rules.
R.B.'s history to this point was little better. Like D.S., R.B. attended substance abuse and psychological evaluations on November 30, 2005. At that time, he admitted to having been a habitual cocaine user since the age of nineteen, and he stated that he had been arrested on approximately forty occasions. He had recently been arrested for hindering apprehension and resisting arrest in connection with an incident involving D.S. It was recommended that reunification be deferred until R.B. had abstained from drug use for a period of six months and had finished all recommended treatment programs.
In January 2006, R.B.'s visitations with T.B. were terminated because he threatened staff members at Preferred Behavioral Health where the visits were being conducted, as well as another of his children. However, supervised visitation was later resumed.
During 2006, R.B. received drug treatment through the DARE program at Preferred Behavioral Health, testing positive for illicit substances on more than one occasion. Because of transportation difficulties, in June 2006, R.B.'s treatment was transferred to Ocean Mental Health. However, he failed to attend his first session at Ocean Mental Health because he was arrested. He subsequently attended for one month, but on two occasions, he tested positive for cocaine. He was terminated from its program in August or September 2006 for noncompliance with treatment and positive drug screens in July, August and September and his refusal to submit to additional drug screens. R.B. also tested positive for cocaine at Community Medical Center.
In September 2006, R.B. entered a fifteen-day rehabilitation program at New Hope Treatment Center. However, he ...