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New Jersey Division of Youth & Family Services v. S.L.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

October 8, 2013

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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 16, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FG-02-77-12.

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Beryl Foster-Andres, 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 J.S.-J. (Noel C. Devlin, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, on the brief).

Before Judges Parrillo and Harris.

PER CURIAM

Defendant S.L. appeals from the judgment of the Family Part terminating her parental rights to her two-year old son, J.S.-J.[2]We affirm.

The Division of Youth and Family Services first became involved with the family on December 15, 2010, when thirty-two year old S.L. gave birth prematurely to J.S.-J., weighing only three pounds and four ounces, both testing positive for amphetamines. J.S.-J. remained in the hospital for a little over two weeks experiencing gastrointestinal issues and having trouble feeding.

The Division conducted an emergency removal of J.S.-J. after he was medically cleared to leave the hospital and he has since lived with the same foster parents, who have expressed a commitment to providing long-term permanent care for J.S.-J. The child's medical and developmental problems have continued to date. At the time of the guardianship trial, he was receiving early intervention services twice a week with a developmental specialist. He also was seeing a cardiologist for a minor heart murmur and a gastroenterologist because of the GI bleed he suffered when he was born. In addition, J.S.-J. was seeing an allergist because of a potential allergy to milk, and a nutritionist because of his struggles with eating and weight management. J.S.-J. also has a speech delay for which he was seeing a developmental specialist twice a week.

Not only did S.L. admit to taking drugs during her pregnancy, but despite the Division's efforts, she continued testing positive for amphetamines and, in fact, admitted taking drugs almost until the day of the guardianship trial, from which she absented herself.

Based on a January 5, 2011 substance abuse evaluation, the Division recommended intensive outpatient treatment and made S.L.'s participation a condition to her placement in the "Mommy and Me" substance abuse program. S.L., however, never complied. Three months later, the Family Part ordered S.L. to complete a thirty-day inpatient drug treatment program. On that same day, S.L. stipulated that her "drug use created a substantial risk that [she was] unable to provide necessary care of newborn child." Although she enrolled in the inpatient drug treatment program in May 2011, she left after four days. In December 2011, S.L. entered another inpatient program independently in New York, but the treatment again was unsuccessful. S.L. has not attended any other treatment programs during the course of the litigation.

S.L. has also failed to attend appointments for psychiatric and psychological evaluations arranged by the Division throughout 2011 and 2012. She explained her non-appearance on one such occasion by stating that she was "crashing" the day before while visiting J.S.-J. at the office. Supervised visitation with J.S.-J. was random on her part at first, then more regularly scheduled. When she requested more visitation time, S.L. was informed that she first needed to be compliant with the services arranged by the Division. After a visit on November 9, 2011, a Division worker met with S.L. and noticed that she did not look well and was about to fall ...


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