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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. A.F.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

July 15, 2013

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, [1] Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
A.F., Defendant-Appellant, and S.B., and J.M., Defendants. IN THE MATTER OF J.M., Minor.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued telephonically May 7, 2013.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FN-09-267-11.

Michael S. Harwin, Designated Counsel, argued the cause for appellant (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney; Mr. Harwin, on the brief).

Ann Avram Huber, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent, New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (Jeffery S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney; Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Ms. Huber, on the brief).

Damen J. Thiel, Designated Counsel, argued the cause for minor J.M. (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney; Mr. Thiel, on the brief).

Before Judges Alvarez, Waugh and St. John.

PER CURIAM

A.F. (Amy)[2] appeals from the May 10, 2011 order of the Family Part finding abuse or neglect based on Amy's statutory "abandonment" of her niece J.M. (Jane). See N.J.S.A. 9:6-1. Amy was Jane's guardian pursuant to a kinship legal guardianship order entered in 2002. See N.J.S.A. 3B:12A-6; N.J.S.A. 30:4C-87. At trial, the Law Guardian opposed any finding of abuse and neglect against Amy and joins in the appeal. We are not convinced the order is supported by substantial, credible evidence in the record and thus reverse.

I

On December 17, 2010, sixteen-year-old Jane and her baby were living with Amy. Jane's pregnant older sister was visiting. During a phone call with her stepfather, Jane misunderstood something he said and concluded that her biological mother had died. As a result, she began to scream at her own baby and physically attacked her older sister. Jane attempted to kick her sister while they struggled, saying she wanted her to lose the baby. Amy called the police, who took Jane to a nearby hospital. Although unclear from the record, we conclude that the officers intended to have Jane screened for possible commitment because they suspected she might be suffering from post-partum depression.

In any event, Amy asked the police to contact the Division on her behalf because she did not want Jane discharged to her home. The following day, Jane was released from the hospital and went to stay with a cousin. She called the Division to request assistance in finding a place to live.

This was not the first time that Amy found Jane's conduct unmanageable. In 2009, Amy sought the Division's intervention, but Jane was terminated from the program in which the Division enrolled her, and she did not respond to in-home counseling the Division provided. When offered homemaker services and additional in-home counseling on this occasion, Amy declined because she understood such services required her presence in the home, and she feared it would cause her to lose her job. Amy believed that Jane was involved with drugs, was "run[ning] the streets, " and sorely in need of mental health services and medication.

When contacted by the hospital about taking Jane home upon her release, Amy asked medical personnel to call the Division. When the Division asked Amy if she would take Jane back, Amy insisted she would not do so without additional treatment and services for Jane. As the worker explained it, Amy was ...


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