On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Passaic County, Docket No. FG-16-61-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Yannotti, Espinosa and Kennedy.
Defendant N.R. appeals from the Family Part's judgment of April 11, 2011, terminating his parental rights to his son, N.Q.*fn1
N.R. contends that the statutory requirements of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1 were not proven by clear and convincing evidence and that the trial court erred in not granting kinship legal guardianship of the child to a relative, A.A., pursuant to the Kinship Legal Guardianship Act, N.J.S.A. 3B:12A-1 to -7. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm substantially for the reasons stated by Judge George E. Sabbath in his opinion from the bench. The findings are "based on clear and convincing evidence supported by the record," and the legal conclusions are sound. N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. P.P., 180 N.J. 494, 511 (2004).
N.Q. was born in Florida on May 9, 2006, to S.B. and N.R. On August 22, 2008, the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS or the Division) received a referral from Florida's Child Protective Services advising that N.R. was relocating to New Jersey with N.Q., and expressing concern about N.R.'s ability to parent the child in view of the child's health issues and N.R.'s substance abuse history. N.R. admitted at trial that he had used cocaine in Florida while caring for N.Q., and that he had used cocaine "just before" he relocated to New Jersey.
N.R.'s parenting abilities were of particular concern to DYFS because N.Q. suffers from Type 1 diabetes and asthma, requiring twenty-four hour care. The child receives insulin at least twice a day, must be closely monitored and is classified as medically fragile.
Child Protective Services in Florida provided the Division with its files and records pertaining to the family and requested a home assessment. Accordingly, a Division family service specialist met with N.R. in late August 2008 at the home of N.R.'s sister, where N.R. was living with N.Q. N.R., who was forty-seven years of age at the time, told the Division representative that he had started using cocaine when he was nineteen years of age and that he had consistently used marijuana, as well.
The Division representative had an extensive discussion with N.R. about obtaining housing, enrolling in a substance abuse program, and arranging for social services. The Division thereafter succeeded in getting N.R. enrolled into the substance abuse program at Passaic Alliance, assisted him with housing and arranged for N.Q.'s placement in a specialized daycare facility so that N.R. could seek employment.
DYFS closed its case in December 2008 after it determined that N.R. appeared to be dealing with his drug addiction, had safe and secure housing for himself and N.Q., and was appropriately caring for N.Q. It also appeared to DYFS that N.Q. was alert and active and had a loving relationship with N.R.
However, on April 27, 2009, DYFS received another referral about N.R. and N.Q. N.R.'s brother contacted DYFS and advised that N.R. had relapsed into drug abuse and that N.Q. was frequently absent from daycare. Consequently, DYFS re-opened its case and initiated an investigation.
DYFS learned that N.Q. was now living with N.R.'s niece, A.A., where N.R. had left the child. N.R. could not be located, appeared to no longer have housing, and according to representatives at N.Q.'s daycare facility, N.R. at times appeared at the facility "under the influence" and became disruptive. The daycare representatives further advised that after they indicated to N.R. that they had run out of N.Q.'s diabetes testing strips, N.R. told them they no longer had to test N.Q. ...