On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FN-09-377-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted March 21, 2012 -
Before Judges Fuentes, Koblitz and Haas.
In this Title 9 action brought by the Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division), defendant E.R. appeals from the judgment of the Family Part finding she abused and neglected her now adult daughter M.L.A. by violating a safety plan entered by the Division through which defendant agreed not to permit her paramour A.G., Sr., to have access to M.L.A. or to enter the house where defendant and M.L.A. resided. The safety plan was predicated upon M.L.A.'s accusation that A.G., Sr. had sexually molested her from ages twelve to fifteen. We affirm.
Defendant has three children, two daughters, M.L.A.*fn1
and M.R., who are both now over the age of majority, and a
son A.G., Jr., who is now five years old. A.G., Sr. is the boy's
biological father. During a two-year period from January 2006 through
May 2008, the Division received three referrals alleging defendant had
neglected her two then-teenaged daughters.
The first report in 2006 alleged defendant had been seen visibly intoxicated and urinating on herself. The reporter was especially concerned because defendant was six weeks pregnant at the time. The caller also alleged that defendant had been diagnosed with, and was being treated for, major depression with psychotic features. A few days later, the Division received a call from an individual stating that M.L.A., who was fourteen years old at the time, was seen going to school in clothes stained with menstrual blood, while also exhibiting other indications of extremely poor personal hygiene. Upon further investigation, the Division deemed both allegations unfounded.
The Division received another referral in 2007 alleging that M.L.A. had failed the eighth grade due to poor attendance. She was also falling asleep during class. The reporter again alleged that M.L.A. had serious problems with personal hygiene, repeatedly wearing filthy clothes to school. At a meeting with school authorities, family members appeared to be under the influence of illicit drugs. Once again the allegations were deemed unfounded; the Division closed the case in 2008.
The incident that gave rise to this appeal occurred two years later. On June 9, 2010, the Division received a referral alleging that defendant's live-in paramour, A.G., Sr., had sexually molested M.L.A. from ages twelve to fifteen. The reporter also alleged that M.L.A. had told defendant about the abuse but defendant "did not believe the molestation occurred."
M.L.A. confirmed the allegations of sexual abuse in an interview conducted that same day by Division caseworker Wyonia Muir. According to M.L.A., A.G., Sr. sexually abused her on three occasions, starting when she was twelve years old and ending when she was fifteen years old. There was also one incident of physical abuse that occurred when A.G., Sr. threw a water bottle at M.L.A.'s face after she came to her mother's defense in an argument between A.G., Sr. and defendant. M.L.A. also told Muir that A.G., Sr. smoked marijuana and regularly consumed alcohol in the house. M.L.A. was seventeen years old at the time of her interview with Muir.
Defendant told the Division investigator that she did not believe her daughter's allegations. Despite her misgivings about her daughter's veracity, however, defendant agreed to obtain a restraining order against A.G., Sr. on M.L.A.'s behalf. That same day, the Division assigned homemakers to defendant's residence on a twenty-four hour basis and established a safety plan pursuant to which defendant was required to keep A.G., Sr. away from the children.
Despite her ostensible commitment to her daughter's safety, defendant failed to adhere to the Division's safety plan. On June 10, 2010, the homemaker on duty reported to the Division that at approximately 12:30 a.m., A.G, Sr. attempted to return to defendant's residence and was rebuffed only after the homemaker told him to leave. According to the Division caseworker, when she contacted defendant to inform her about this incident, defendant candidly admitted that A.G., Sr. had been to her residence the night before and she told him he could not stay. Despite that, defendant also admitted that she subsequently allowed A.G., Sr. to enter the home, and she did not secure the restraining order against A.G., Sr. to preclude him having any contact with M.L.A. because she thought her ...