NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff-Respondent,
C.S., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF N.S., a minor.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 9, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FG-02-97-11.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant C.S. (Miles Lessem, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel and on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minor, N.S. (Damen J. Thiel, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Before Judges Parrillo, Harris, and Guadagno.
This is a Title Thirty guardianship case. Defendant C.S. appeals from the July 11, 2012 judgment terminating her parental rights to Nina,  who was born in July 2004. We are satisfied that the record fully supports the decision to terminate C.S.'s parental rights. The Family Part applied the correct legal standards to its factual conclusions. After a review of the record, we discern no basis for disturbing the court's determinations. Accordingly, we affirm substantially for the reasons set forth in Judge John A. Conte's thorough forty-five page written opinion. We add the following comments.
The Division of Youth and Family Services first became involved with the family in 2004. In the ensuing six years, the Division was again involved on multiple occasions for what were a series of relatively minor interactions. Finally, however, the Division developed a strong suspicion that C.S. had a longstanding and unresolved substance abuse problem.
By May 2010, after being arrested and incarcerated, C.S. tested positive for very high levels of opiates, which could not be readily explained by the prescriptions provided by her physician. During a detoxification process, C.S. appeared to be suffering from hallucinations and exhibited delusional behavior. She was ultimately admitted to Hackensack University Medical Center for psychiatric care. The Family Part entered an order on May 27, 2010, placing Nina in the custody of the Division, and Nina went to live with her paternal aunt, F.S.
In the following months, C.S. regularly tested positive for narcotic medications. A psychological evaluation conducted in August 2010 recommended that Nina remain in her current placement, and that she should not be returned to C.S.'s care for the foreseeable future. Over the next several months, C.S. failed or refused to remain in contact with the Division, and neglected to attend several meetings and substance abuse evaluations arranged by the Division. The record clearly reveals that C.S. has suffered from a history of substance abuse, notwithstanding her ability to occasionally produce negative drug screens. In August 2011, C.S. was again incarcerated, and her contact with Nina became sporadic due to C.S.'s unwillingness to participate in arranged visitation.
On May 14, June 4, and June 13, 2011, a guardianship trial was conducted before Judge Conte. Three witnesses were produced by the Division: adoption specialist Lakeshia Dennis-Reyes; Nina's aunt F.S.; and Robert Kanen, Ph.D. No witnesses were presented by either the Law Guardian (who supports the Division's permanency plan) or C.S.
Based upon a documentary record and the testimony produced during trial, Judge Conte concluded that all four factors of the best interests test, see N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a), were satisfied by ...