DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
T.W.J. and S.M.W., Defendants-Appellants. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF TO.M.J., T.W.J., JR., AND TY.M.J., Minors.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 10, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FG-04-134-12.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant T.W.J. (Michele C. Buckley, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant S.M.W. (Dianne Glenn, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent Division of Child Protection and Permanency (Lewis A. Scheindlin, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Nora P. Pearce, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for the minors (Karen A. Lodeserto, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Before Judges Alvarez and Ostrer.
T.W.J. and S.M.W. appeal the July 10, 2012 decision terminating their parental rights to three of their children, To.M.J., born August 2006; T.W.J., Jr., born January 2008; and Ty.M.J., born April 2010. After our review of the extensive record, we affirm essentially for the reasons stated by Judge Octavia Melendez in her thorough, thoughtful, and comprehensive fifty-three-page written opinion. We offer only the following comments.
To place the matter in its proper context, we note initially that T.W.J. and S.M.W. also had a fourth child, now approximately eight years old, who has been adopted by T.W.J.'s sister. S.M.W. has two older children by a different father, who were removed by Ohio Children's Services; her parental rights to those children were previously terminated.
Turning to the circumstances that resulted in this litigation, the family became involved in New Jersey with plaintiff, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (Division), as a result of referrals beginning in August 2006 related to the couple's use of drugs. Ultimately, the protective services litigation, filed as a result of the referrals, was dismissed after entry of a finding of abuse and neglect, and the issuance of a permanency order. A guardianship complaint was then filed by the Division on December 7, 2011.
Towards the end of August 2009, the children were removed the first time, for approximately eight months. On August 25, 2009, S.M.W. took her children to the home of T.W.J.'s sister and asked her to watch them. S.M.W. told her that T.W.J. had instructed her to drop them off at his sister's house, where he would pick them up. T.W.J.'s sister, who had just returned from work, refused to take the children, went inside her home, and closed the door. A few minutes later, her husband arrived only to find To.M.J., then three years old, and T.W.J., Jr., then eighteen months old, alone on the doorstep. When S.M.W. returned to the house, she was intoxicated. She was arrested and charged with child endangering.
When a caseworker located T.W.J. later that evening, T.W.J.'s words were slurred because he had been drinking. He had no plan for caring for the children, refused to meet with the caseworker and the children at the police station, and would not reveal his address or ...