On appeal from the Department of Children and Families, Division of Youth and Family Services, Docket No. AHU-11-0064.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Espinosa and Koblitz.
G.G. is the paternal grandfather of A.G. He and his wife, J.G., appeal from a final administrative action of the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS or the Division)*fn1 that ruled them out as placement providers for their grandson. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
A.G. was born January 21, 2009. In July 2009, his parents, C.C. and B.G., were arrested on charges of possession of heroin and endangering the welfare of a child. An emergency removal of A.G. was executed on July 29, 2009 pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.29 and .30. B.G. expressed a preference for A.G. to be placed with his father, G.G. On the same date, a DYFS worker contacted G.G. and advised him of the situation and the need for placement. G.G. told the worker that he is "almost 70 years old" and that both he and his wife work and would be unable to care for A.G. The DYFS worker advised G.G. that A.G. would be placed in foster care, at least until another relative was found who would be willing to care for him. G.G. agreed and A.G. was placed in a Division-approved resource home.
By letter dated August 5, 2009, the Division advised appellants that they would no longer be considered as a possible placement for A.G.:
I am writing to inform you that you will no longer be considered as a potential caregiver for [A.G.]. The reason for this decision is because you expressed that you are unable to care for [A.G.] due to health concerns. If there is a change in circumstances, please contact me so that the Division may consider you as a potential caregiver for [A.G.]
As placement is a temporary arrangement, if the child is unable to return to [his] parents or other relatives, other living arrangements will be made for him, in which the child may be placed in adoption.
If you disagree with this decision, you may request a review of the decision by an agency representative who has no role in this case . . . within ten days of the date of this letter.
The rule-out letter supplied the contact information for both the agency representative and the writer in the event appellants had any further questions. *fn2
On August 28, 2009, A.G.'s parents and appellants had a supervised visit with A.G. A DYFS contact sheet for that date states, [J.G.] apologized stating she is sorry that she is unable to keep the baby. She stated that [G.G.] is getting over a stroke and she had an operation recently that she is still recovering from the surgery.
Later that day, G.G. contacted DYFS and reiterated that he was unable to care for A.G. full-time but would like to have visits with him. In February 2010, A.G. was placed with his current foster family, who is committed to adoption. B.G. died on December 9, 2010.
By letter dated December 21, 2010, G.G. wrote to the Division, stating the appellants' intention "to do anything and everything in our power and the legal system to obtain custody of our grandchild." G.G. explained that he and his wife had refrained from interfering because his son had been reassured that he would regain custody "once the biological mother was out of the picture." G.G. stated that "the situation [had] drastically changed" as a result of his son's death and that it was the wish of both B.G. and appellants for them to have custody if B.G. was unable to regain custody. G.G. demanded the immediate return of A.G.
G.G. met with the DYFS caseworker, who provided him with information on how to appeal the rule-out letter. In a letter dated January 10, 2011 to appellants, the Division again advised that it had reached out to them at the time of original placement and that, following appellants' representation that they were unable to care for A.G., an alternative plan was pursued. Nonetheless, appellants were advised ...