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

June 27, 2012

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
L.L.,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF A.L.L.G., A MINOR.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FG-04-0140-11.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 16, 2012

Before Judges Fuentes, Graves, and J. N. Harris.

L.L., the biological mother of A.L.L.G. (fictitiously Alice), appeals from a judgment of guardianship dated June 7, 2011, terminating her parental rights to Alice.*fn1 The law guardian supports the termination of L.L.'s parental rights. After examining the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.

Alice was L.L.'s eighth child. Unfortunately, L.L. has a history of chronic mental illness. L.L.'s parental rights to six of the seven children she had before Alice were terminated. The exception is L.L.'s oldest son, who has reached the age of majority.

On November 23, 2009, the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS or the Division) received a referral from the Lourdes Health Center. The caller reported that L.L., who was pregnant and about to give birth, was involuntarily committed to the hospital's psychiatric unit and would be returned to the unit after her child was born. The caller stated that L.L. was involuntarily admitted to the hospital due to her "suicidal and homicidal ideations." Alice was born on November 25, 2009. Prior to her release from the hospital, Alice was placed in the care and custody of the Division based on L.L.'s longstanding mental health conditions and her involuntary commitment.

On December 23, 2009, L.L. completed a psychological evaluation with Larry N. Seidman, Ph.D. One of the purposes of the evaluation was to determine L.L.'s "capacity to safely parent her child." Dr. Seidman summarized his findings as follows:

Results of the present evaluation indicate that [L.L.] continues to suffer from paranoid schizophrenia and continues to be readily and unpredictably susceptible to breakdown under everyday stressors.

Further, her condition seriously impairs the quality of her thinking, judgment, and reality testing as well as her ability to manage her own life on anything resembling a consistent basis. Thus: it can be said with a reasonable degree of psychological certainty that her behavior and thinking is not sufficiently stable and predictable to recommend her to care for and protect her newborn child. Her prognosis for recovery is quite guarded.

Dr. Seidman also recommended a psychiatric evaluation "to determine an appropriate psychotropic regimen for symptoms of a thought disorder and possible manic episodes." That evaluation was conducted by Leon R. Rosenberg, M.D., on March 16, 2010. According to Dr. Rosenberg, L.L. "suffers from bipolar disorder or bipolar disorder with psychotic features," which requires medication; and she suffers from a "dissociative disorder," which requires "intensive psychotherapy."

In March 2011, Ronald S. Gruen, Ed.D., conducted a psychological evaluation of L.L. and a bonding evaluation "to assess the degree of relationship between mother and daughter." In his report dated April 1, 2011, Dr. Gruen noted that L.L. had been "in and out of psychiatric hospitals" and had been "diagnosed with serious psychiatric illnesses," including bipolar disorder with psychotic features, paranoid schizophrenia, and dissociative disorder. Dr. Gruen found that L.L.'s "overt symptomatology [was] ameliorated through medication." However, he also stated there were issues regarding L.L.'s "contact with reality" because she did not understand "why she lost custody of [Alice] or any of her other children." Ultimately, Dr. Gruen concluded that L.L. could not parent her child and that Alice "would be at risk if placed in [L.L.'s] care."

Dr. Gruen summarized the results of his bonding evaluation as follows: "There is no psychological bond between mother and child. The child has barely seen the mother for most of her life. The child would not suffer ...


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