NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES , Plaintiff-Respondent,
O.C. and M.M., Defendants-Appellants. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF S.C., a minor.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 13, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Morris County, Docket No. FG-14-26-12.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant O.C. (Eric R. Foley, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant M.M. (Walter A. Norris, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Lauren F. Carlton, Assistant Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minor (Karen A. Lodeserto, Designated Counsel, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Graves, Ashrafi and Guadagno.
Defendants O.C. (the father) and M.M. (the mother) appeal from the judgment of the Chancery Division, Family Part, terminating their parental rights to their daughter, who is now ten years old and who has consistently expressed a desire to remain with her resource parents rather than to be reunited with defendants. Addressing defendants' appeals together, we affirm the judgment.
Defendants' daughter was born in November 2002. They also have two sons together, both older than the girl who is the subject of this case. The mother also has an older daughter, now an adult. Beginning in 2004, DYFS received referrals about the mother's inadequate care of the children and her inability to address their behavioral and emotional problems. The older half-sister was subsequently removed from the mother's custody and placed in a foster home. The father, who speaks limited English, has been steadily employed in manual labor jobs, but he has not taken an active role in the care and nurturing of the children. For significant periods of time during DYFS's involvement with the family, he lived separately and did not provide financial support for the mother and the children.
In 2007 and 2008, DYFS received frequent referrals about the family. The mother was chronically homeless, despite receiving Supplemental Security Income of $1, 300 per month and having other opportunities for assistance. She could not account for what happened to her money, and she did not cooperate with the county welfare board in obtaining additional financial assistance. On more than one occasion, she and the children were directed to leave homeless shelters because she did not adequately care for the children and violated the rules of the shelters. The children were often seen disheveled and unsupervised. The two boys, who were diagnosed with psychological conditions, misbehaved badly and could not be controlled by her. All three children were subjected to physical or verbal abuse by the mother.
During one summer, DYFS provided funds for daycare camp for the children, and camp personnel reported that the children would appear in the same clothes day after day and the mother would not drop them off or pick them up on time. In addition, the boys displayed serious behavioral problems, and the girl engaged in sexual touching of herself. School personnel also reported to DYFS that the children were not adequately cared for and appeared to be moving from shelter to shelter.
In July 2008, DYFS obtained a court order to take temporary custody of the three children after learning that defendants and the three children had been staying without permission in one room rented by the father in a boarding house, and that the father had recently evicted the mother and children from that location. After DYFS took custody, the girl was placed in a separate foster home from her two brothers. Subsequently, in June 2009, she was moved to a different foster home, where the resource parents also cared for her older half-sister and two other female foster children. She has remained in that foster home and has thrived there.
The court granted supervised visitation to defendants, and DYFS arranged for evaluations, counseling, and parenting skills classes. They took only sporadic advantage of the services offered, for example, missing many scheduled visitation dates ...