NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
M.R., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF NY.R. AND NE.R., minors.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 23, 2013.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FG-04-158-12.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Richard Sparaco, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (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-respondents, NY.R. and NE.R. (David Valentin, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Harris and Guadagno.
This is a Title Thirty guardianship case. Defendant M.R. appeals from the January 11, 2013 judgment of guardianship terminating his parental rights to Nia (now six years old) and Naledi (now five years old). We are satisfied that the record fully supports the Family Part's decision to terminate M.R.'s parental rights. The court applied the correct legal standards to its well-founded factual conclusions. As there is no basis for disturbing the court's findings, we affirm substantially for the reasons set forth in Judge Linda G. Baxter's comprehensive oral opinion. We add the following comments.
M.R., now approaching his twenty-sixth birthday, was, at the time of trial, involuntarily committed at a mental health facility in Maryland. He has suffered a lifetime of mental illness that is not likely to abate in the near future. He expressly eschews reunification with his daughters and instead, offers his mother —— the girls' grandmother —— as an appropriate caretaker so that his parental rights are preserved.
M.R.'s failure (or refusal) to play a role in his daughters' lives commenced almost from the moment of their 2007 births in Baltimore. Although he lived with them (and their mother) for several months before they moved to New Jersey, he provided little emotional or other support to the infants. After they moved (leaving M.R. with transitory accommodations in Baltimore), and even before the Division's removal of the children in August 2010, M.R. rarely sought to be with them, and never followed through when he did seek visitation. Currently, the girls live with C.A., who is committed to their adoption.
At the inception of the Division's involvement, it did not know the whereabouts of M.R. Nevertheless, it did consider him as a possible placement for the girls, and made efforts to find him. At that time, M.R.'s mother, G.P., was contacted, and she stated that she did not know where her son was. She further explained that he was unable to care for the girls due to his compromised mental health. During the conversation, G.P. expressed an interest in her grandchildren, and the Division began to explore an interstate placement through an investigation by its counterpart in Maryland.
On August 29, 2011, the Baltimore City Department of Human Services notified the Division that G.P. failed to comply with her first step in the home-stay application process. Specifically, G.P. failed to attend either of the mandatory information meetings she was scheduled for in February and March 2011. However, the Division failed to timely notify the girls' grandmother that she was denied as a suitable placement for the girls. A rule-out letter was mailed, but it was addressed incorrectly. Nevertheless, Judge Baxter found circumstantial evidence to support the Division's contention that, notwithstanding the misaddress, G.P. was aware that she had missed the information meetings and had been ruled out as a suitable caretaker.
On June 20, 2012, Dr. Linda Jeffery performed a bonding evaluation with the girls and their foster mother. No bonding evaluation was ever conducted with M.R. or G.P. Moreover, no services were provided to M.R. by the ...