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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. C.T.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

June 28, 2013

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, [1] Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
C.T. and D.C., SR., Defendants-Appellants. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF D.C.C. and D.C., JR., Minors.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 28, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FG-04-119-12.

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant C.T. (Emily J. Daher, Designated Counsel, on the brief).

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant D.C., Sr. (Kevin G. Byrnes Designated Counsel, on the brief).

Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent Division of Youth and Family Services (Lewis A. Scheindlin, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Jennifer A. Lochel, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minors D.C.C. and D.C., Jr. (Noel C. Devlin, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, on the brief).

Before Judges Graves, Espinosa, and Guadagno.

PER CURIAM

In these consolidated appeals, defendant C.T. is the biological mother and defendant D.C., Sr. (D.C.) is the biological father of two children: D.C.C. (fictitiously Donna), born August 18, 2010; and D.C., Jr. (fictitiously Junior), born September 1, 2011. Defendants appeal from an April 26, 2012 judgment terminating their parental rights and granting guardianship of the children to the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS or the Division). The Law Guardian for the children supports the trial court's decision. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

On August 23, 2010, the Division received a referral from a social worker at Cooper Hospital in Camden concerning Donna, who was five days old. The social worker reported that C.T. said she did not know she was pregnant and had no prenatal care. It was reported that the child weighed two pounds 5.9 ounces at birth, and would require extensive hospitalization because she was a pre-term infant diagnosed with sepsis, respiratory distress, and asphyxia. The caller also stated "the mother has cognitive delays" and "the child's father seems to have some mental impairment as well."

The Division investigated the referral and found that Donna was in the neonatal intensive care unit at Cooper Hospital. During a meeting on August 25, 2010, a hospital social worker informed the Division caseworker that defendants' home had no electricity and no furniture. The caseworker also met with C.T., who confirmed there was no electricity because an electric bill had not been paid. C.T. also said she did not have any family or friends other than her grandparents, but she did not speak with them because "they are mean." When the caseworker asked C.T. why her grandparents were mean, C.T. said they told her she could "not raise a baby." C.T. also said she was receiving Social Security Disability Insurance but did not know why she received it.

On September 20, 2010, a hospital social worker advised the Division she was concerned "about the parents' ability to care for the child, " because they had not applied for Medicaid and had not been to the hospital to visit the child in five days. The social worker said that Donna would be discharged in approximately two weeks, and the parents still had no electricity, no clothes for the child, and no place for the child to sleep at their home. In addition, the social worker indicated that the hospital was attempting to obtain services for the mother through the Division of Developmental Disabilities.

A Division caseworker went to the Cooper Hospital on September 22, 2010, to meet with the parents and hospital staff. The caseworker noted that D.T. "appeared unkempt, his clothing was filthy, and he emitted a strong dirty body odor." In addition, it was reported that C.T. was unable to properly diaper the baby "after multiple instructions, " and the hospital staff was "very concerned about the parents' ability to care for the child."

The next day, the caseworker went to defendants' home and observed the living room floor was "covered with piles of clothing" that were "bagged and strewn about." The caseworker also observed that the house had exposed electrical wiring and no heat. The only furniture was a single inflatable mattress with a pillow and blanket on the dining room floor and a full-sized inflatable mattress with a pillow and a blanket in one of the bedrooms. When the caseworker asked D.C. if he was going to help feed the baby and change the baby's diaper, he stated he did not ...


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