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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. S.H

May 31, 2012

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
S.H., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND D.L. AND W.H., DEFENDANTS.
IN THE MATTER OF B.H., A MINOR.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FN-09-0315-11.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 20, 2012

Before Judges Messano and Guadagno.

Following a fact-finding hearing, N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.44, the Family Part judge entered an order that defendant S.H. had "abused or neglected [her] child[] in that . . . [her] continued substance abuse placed her child [B.H.] at risk for harm resulting in the loss of housing [and B.H.] having to relocate thereby neglecting her child." The judge also entered a concurrent order terminating the litigation, and defendant now appeals.

Defendant raises the following points for our consideration:

POINT I -- THE "ABUSE OR NEGLECT" FINDING AGAINST S.H. WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY A PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE BECAUSE THE TRIAL COURT MADE AN IMPROPER INFER[]ENCE THAT B.H. WAS IN IMMINENT DANGER OF HARM UNDER N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c)(4)

POINT II -- BECAUSE THE TRIAL COURT'S "ABUSE AND NEGLECT" FINDING AGAINST S.H. IS NOT SUPPORTED BY A PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE, HER NAME SHOULD BE EXPUNGED FROM THE CENTRAL REGISTRY OF CHILD ABUSERS We have considered these arguments in light of the record and applicable legal standards. We affirm.

I.

B.H. was born on October 8, 2004 when defendant was not quite twenty-nine years old. Defendant also has a son, E.Y., born in 2000, who is not the subject of this proceeding and is currently living with W.H., defendant's mother, in North Carolina.*fn1

We discern the following facts from the exhibits admitted into evidence at the fact-finding hearing, and the testimony of David Barrito and Betty Matos, the Division's caseworkers.

Defendant contacted the DYFS hotline on September 2, 2009 stating that she was having "mental health issues." Police officers responded and transported defendant to the hospital where she was tested for the presence of illegal substances. The tests were positive for PCP, cocaine and marijuana. Defendant admitted her use of those drugs, and DYFS offered her drug treatment and homemaker services.

Barrito testified that DYFS received seven referrals thereafter and substantiated one of those referrals.*fn2 On May 2, 2010, a supervisor from Elite Healthcare advised DYFS that one of its homemakers reported defendant went into her bedroom that evening and "came out smelling ...


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