NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff-Respondent,
J.W.C., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF M.D., J.D., T.D., S.D., E.D. AND T.D., Minors.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted March 19, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FN-04-175-12.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Mark E. Kleiman, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Lewis A. Scheindlin, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Eden F. Feld, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minors M.D., J.D., T.D., S.D., E.D. and T.D. (Olivia Belfatto Crisp, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, on the brief).
Before Judges Ostrer and Mantineo.
Following a fact-finding hearing,  the Family Part determined defendant J.W.C. (Jennifer) had abused or neglected the six children under her care when she affirmatively ignored the Division's "Safety Case Plan" (safety plan) and allowed her children to live in a home with no electricity when other safer options were available, N.J.S.A. 9:6-8:21c(4)(b). Jennifer appeals from the confirming order. We affirm.
Jennifer is step-mother to six minor children under her care, M.D. (age 17); J.D. (age 14); T.D. (age 10); S.D. (age 7); E.D. (age 6); and T.D. (age 4). The family initially became known to the Division in 2009 as a result of allegations of physical abuse and domestic violence committed by the children's father, R.D. (Randy) upon both Jennifer and the children. The Division provided services to the family and the case was closed in June 2011. The instant matter concerns two referrals made in July and August 2011, when the Division was notified the children were living without electricity in the family home.
We discern the following facts from the transcript of the fact-finding hearing. Five individuals testified at the hearing: Division intake worker Cyndi Cruz; caseworker Cheryl Collins; police officer Harry Pizzico; Jennifer; and Randy. The Division also introduced documentary evidence that included the Division's investigation summary, screening summary, two safety plans and a police report.
On July 15, 2011, the Division received a referral stating the children had been living in Jennifer's home without electricity. The referent also cited concerns with the mother's inappropriate behavior and poor parenting skills, alleging Jennifer would often leave the children home alone, was frequently out partying and would invite teenage boys over and engage in sex with them, occasionally, in the presence of the children. The Division dispatched a caseworker to investigate the allegations. The caseworker spoke with Jennifer and confirmed that the home was without electricity. Jennifer explained she was waiting for the electric company to replace the meter that had been partially ripped off her home.
On July 18, 2011, the caseworker returned to Jennifer's residence to determine if the electricity had been restored. The caseworker noted the meter had been fully removed from the house since her last visit only three days earlier. The caseworker called the electric company and a ...