On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Passaic County, Docket No. FG-16-14-11.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 10, 2012
Before Judges Parrillo, Sabatino and Maven.
Defendant C.D. appeals from the termination of her parental rights to her three-year-old daughter O.D. We affirm.
Defendant, who resided in the Bronx as of the time of trial, has a multi-decade history of drug addiction, prostitution, unstable housing and irregular employment, and has had her six other children removed from her care, five of whom involuntarily. O.D.'s foster mother has cared for O.D. since June 29, 2010, and wishes to adopt her.
By way of background, defendant, who was the victim of both physical and sexual abuse as a child, became a prostitute at age fourteen, and began selling herself for drugs after her abusive mother threw her out of the family home. Over the next seventeen years, defendant was repeatedly raped and beaten while, as she described it, "living the life." Eventually she maintained an apartment, where people paid her for sex and for a place to smoke crack cocaine. Defendant began having children by different drug dealers. She engaged in prostitution and smoked crack while her children were asleep in another room. She admits never having a "non-abusive, drug-free, enriching or enduring relationship with any of her sexual partners." Although defendant, who did not complete high school, occasionally worked, she was never able to stay employed for more than brief periods due to her drug addiction.
The Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) first became involved with then-twenty-six-year-old defendant on January 26, 2005, after police raided the Newark home where she was living with her boyfriend, A.C., and her three children at the time, D.D., Ty.D. and Ta.D. The police discovered narcotics and firearms in the home and arrested A.C. Although she denied it at the time, defendant later admitted that she was aware of the presence of drugs and weapons in the home. The children were removed the next day after a Division case worker stopped by for a follow-up visit and found that they had been left without supervision.
On July 14, 2005, defendant gave birth to a daughter, Q.D., who tested positive for cocaine and was immediately removed from defendant's care. The four children were not returned to defendant until July 28, 2006, after she successfully completed court-ordered substance abuse treatment.
On January 23, 2007, the Division received a referral indicating that defendant had tested positive for cocaine while giving birth that day to her fifth child, H.D. The Division subsequently learned that H.D. had also tested positive for cocaine, that nine-and-one-half-year-old D.D. had missed six consecutive days of school and was also unable to read, and that defendant had hit Ta.D. with a belt, bruising his face and ear. On January 30, 2007, all five children were removed from defendant's care, and defendant was again referred for drug treatment.
Defendant was initially compliant with treatment but then tested positive for cocaine on June 25, 2007, ceased attending her treatment sessions in August 2007, and was discharged from the program on August 31, 2007. At the time of this relapse, defendant was pregnant with her sixth child, J.D. The Division abandoned its plan to have defendant begin overnight weekend visitation with her children, and instead referred defendant to another substance abuse program on October 3, 2007. She attended the program for only a few days and was discharged for non-attendance on October 17, 2007. She tested positive for cocaine on October 8, December 3, and December 20, 2007.
On February 1, 2008, defendant gave birth to J.D., and again both mother and child tested positive for cocaine.
The Division filed a verified complaint for custody of J.D. on February 7, 2008, and then a guardianship complaint to terminate defendant's parental rights as to her five older children on March 26, 2008. At the same time, the Division referred defendant to Eva's Village in Paterson for another attempt at drug treatment. She remained in treatment for approximately ten months, but was ultimately discharged for non-compliance on January 30, 2009, after having stopped all treatment on January 9, 2009. During her treatment at Eva's Village, defendant had two positive urine samples and also failed to supply urine on a few days.
On April 3, 2009, the Division filed a separate guardianship complaint to terminate defendant's parental rights to J.D. due to her failure to complete her treatment at Eva's Village. The complaint pertaining to J.D. was not consolidated with the pending trial as to the older children.
Following a trial in absentia because defendant could not be located, on April 23, 2009, the court entered a judgment terminating defendant's parental rights as to D.D., Ty.D., Ta.D., Q.D., and H.D.*fn2 On February 19, 2010, defendant voluntarily surrendered her parental rights to J.D.
Meanwhile, after defendant was finally located on May 26, 2009, she was six months pregnant with O.D. and living with an unidentified man in Paterson. She had failed to obtain any prenatal care during this entire time because, by her own admission, she did not want to be tested for ...