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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. S.D.B.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

August 9, 2013

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, [1] Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
S.D.B., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF T.D.B., a minor.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 22, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FG-07-0116-12.

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Robert W. Ratish, Designated Counsel, on the brief).

Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Rita Gesualdo, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minor, T.D.B. (Christopher A. Huling, Designated Counsel, on the brief).

Before Judges Sabatino and Maven.

PER CURIAM

Defendant S.D.B. (Sandy) appeals from the termination of her parental rights to her then two-year-old daughter, T.D.B. (Tanya).[2] We affirm.

A one-day trial was held on April 24, 2012. Following the trial, the Honorable Ronald D. Wigler, J.S.C., entered an order terminating Sandy's parental rights and awarding guardianship of the child to the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division). In a comprehensive written decision setting forth credibility determinations, evidentiary rulings, findings of fact, and conclusions of law, Judge Wigler found that the Division satisfied all four prongs of the statutory "best interests" test, N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a).

The following facts were adduced from the trial record. Sandy was sixteen years old and in the custody and care of the Division when she gave birth to Tanya in July 2010. Tanya's father, H.W., could not be located and was not a part of the litigation. Upon their release from the hospital, Sandy and baby Tanya were placed together in a Division-approved resource home. The Division arranged services for Sandy, including parenting skills at the New Life program, individual therapy with the Family Connections Adolescent Crisis Intervention Program (ACIP), tutoring, mentoring, and life skills at Independent High.

The Division scheduled Sandy for a psychological evaluation with Briana Cox, Psy.D., on August 17, 2010. During the evaluation, Sandy admitted that she resided with Tanya in a resource home, but she did not get along with her resource mother. She admitted that she had never been employed before and had only completed school up to the tenth grade. Dr. Cox asked Sandy about the physical and emotional needs of a newborn, as well as how she would discipline a child. Sandy responded that the appropriate form of discipline for a two-year-old is "a pop." Dr. Cox asked what Sandy would do if disciplining Tanya in that manner did not work and Sandy responded, "I don't know."

Sandy also submitted to cognitive and personality testing during her evaluation with Dr. Cox. Sandy's overall score on the KBIT-2 cognitive assessment was in the first percentile, but Dr. Cox acknowledged that the test might not represent her true abilities. Sandy scored "very high" on a scale that measured social insensitivity. She scored "high" on scales that measured delinquent predisposition, inhibition, depressive affect, childhood abuse, forceful behavior, peer insecurity, introversion, and doleful personality traits.

Dr. Cox concluded that Sandy lacked the financial resources to care for a child independently, as she was unemployed, still in high school, and dependent on others to take care of her. She also concluded that Sandy did not have sufficient emotional resources to care for a child, and was socially insensitive and prone to delinquent behaviors. Dr. Cox opined that with support, Sandy might be able to develop the skills she needed to care for her child independently in the future. However, the prognosis for her ability to parent was guarded, as Sandy would need a high level of services in order to prepare her to parent independently.

Dr. Cox recommended that Sandy and Tanya be placed in a highly structured "Mommy and Me" program that could address Sandy's emotional problems therapeutically, as well as Tanya's physical and emotional needs. She also recommended that Sandy participate in psychotherapy and receive parenting training.

On August 29, 2010, the Division received a referral from Sandy's resource mother requesting that Sandy be removed from her home. The resource mother indicated that Sandy was threatening that her family was going to "jump her." She also indicted that Sandy had previously run away from the home and was being taken to the hospital for psychiatric screening.

The following day, on August 30, 2010, the Division placed Sandy at the Emergency Diagnostic Reception Unit at YCS Grace Hall (YCS), a thirty-day program designed for children in crisis due to serious behavioral/emotional issues. On the same day, the caseworker placed Tanya in a Division-approved resource home. The caseworker arranged for Sandy to visit Tanya on a weekly basis at the Division office.

On August 31, 2010, Sandy submitted to a psychiatric evaluation at YCS. The clinician recommended that Sandy participate in the academic, therapeutic, and recreational components of the YCS program, as well as attend individual therapy, group therapy, supervised visits with Tanya, and parenting education.

Following her discharge from YCS on October 12, 2010, the Division placed Sandy in another Division-approved resource home. Sandy was advised that in order to remain in the home, she had to come directly home after school and abide by a 10:00 p.m. weekend curfew. She was attending Shabazz High School and continued receiving individual counseling with ACIP until November 2010, when she "adamantly denied her need for services" to the therapist and the Division caseworker. Both ...


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