NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES,  Plaintiff-Respondent,
T.W., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF D.D., T.P., M.W., P.D., C.P., and J.W., Minors
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued May 15, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FN-09-342-11.
Douglas M. Greene, Designated Counsel, argued the cause for appellant (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney; Mr. Greene, on the briefs).
Delia DeLisi, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney; Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Ms. DeLisi, on the brief).
David Valentin, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for minors D.D., T.P., M.W., P.D., C.P., and J.W. (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney; Mr. Valentin, on the brief).
Before Judges Grall and Koblitz.
Defendant mother T.W. (Theresa) appeals from a September 21, 2011 Family Part order entered after a fact-finding hearing, which determined she had abused or neglected her children. The Family Part judge determined that she medically neglected her oldest child, eleven-year-old daughter J.W. (Jane), by waiting until the morning after the child was sexually assaulted to take her to the hospital. N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c)(4)(a). The judge also determined that Theresa put all of the children in her care at risk by abusing illegal drugs and alcohol. N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c)(4)(b). We reverse the finding of medical neglect because the record lacks substantial credible evidence that Theresa's conduct constituted gross negligence or recklessness in that regard. We affirm the finding that the ingestion of drugs and alcohol while caring for her children during the week following the sexual assault put her young children at substantial risk of harm.
We derive the following facts from the record. Twenty-four-year-old Theresa has six children, ranging in age from one to eleven. All but three-year-old C.P. live with her. Jane is the oldest.
On February 21, 2011, Theresa sent Jane to the store to buy cigarettes and Nyquil with Theresa's good friend's boyfriend, R.B. (Ron), at approximately 8:00 p.m. When the child did not return after thirty minutes, Theresa tried unsuccessfully to call Jane on her cell phone. Theresa then went to her friend's house in an attempt to contact Ron. While Theresa was out, Jane returned and revealed to Theresa's live-in boyfriend, Steven, that Ron had sexually assaulted her. Steven called Theresa who immediately returned home.
Theresa comforted her daughter. Jane had no obvious injuries and was not bleeding. The child was tired, and Theresa's mother suggested that Jane be allowed to go to sleep. The next morning Theresa brought Jane to the Jersey City Medical Center and the police were contacted. The police brought Jane to Christ Hospital for a forensic evaluation. The Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) was contacted by hospital staff.
After assessing the situation at the hospital, the Division assessed Theresa's home, finding broken bunk beds in the messy bedroom where her four girls slept. The Division worker advised Theresa that the room was unsafe and was informed by Theresa that she had moved from South Carolina where she had been involved with their child protective services agency.
Two days later, Steven contacted the Division because PSE&G had cut off Theresa's electricity as no payment had been made since the account was set up seven months before. When the Division came to advise her that the children could not stay in the home without electricity, Theresa informed the worker that her mother had paid $350 to turn the ...