NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff-Respondent,
T.L., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF C.L., a minor.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 2, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Morris County, Docket No. FN-14-172-10.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Kimmo Z.H. Abbasi, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Michael A. Toya, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minor C.L. (Jeffrey R. Jablonski, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Before Judges Fuentes, Fasciale and Haas.
Defendant T.L. appeals from the Family Part's September 28, 2010 order, following a fact-finding hearing, determining defendant neglected her child, C.L. (Chad) by having him live in "deplorable home conditions" that "placed [him] in a situation of severe environmental neglect." Defendant challenges the trial court's finding that this conduct constituted neglect under Title Nine. The Law Guardian supports the judge's finding that the Division of Youth and Family Services met its burden of proving neglect. Based on our review of the record and applicable law, we affirm substantially for the reasons stated by the trial judge in his oral opinion of September 28, 2010.
The following proofs were introduced at the fact-finding hearing. In the early morning hours of May 24, 2010, Division investigator Elmira Esen responded to a referral concerning Chad. The Roxbury Township Police Department reported that Chad, then age sixteen, had run away from home and was refusing to return. Esen went to the police station and spoke with Chad. Chad explained he ran away because his older brother, K.L., was mistreating him and had hit him in the chest, back, and arms. He stated he was afraid to return home. Esen explained that, in order to assess the situation, she needed to go to Chad's home and speak to his mother and brother. Chad agreed to accompany Esen to his home.
It was 3:00 a.m. when they arrived. Defendant told Chad to go upstairs and go to sleep and he did so. After entering the home, Esen was overcome by a "heavy" odor of urine and feces. The odor was so strong that she had trouble breathing. There were flies throughout the house. Esen observed broken furniture "all over."
Esen spoke to defendant in the kitchen. The kitchen table was on its side and there was no place to sit because all the chairs were broken. Esen saw two large dogs in the living room and, therefore, she could only "peek" into that room. Due to the condition of the downstairs area, Esen determined "it's hazardous for the child to stay there."
Esen asked to see Chad's room and T.L. led her upstairs to where Chad was sleeping. The room smelled of urine and was heavily cluttered with broken furniture, boxes, clothing, trash, and garbage. Chad was sleeping on a bare, stained, and discolored mattress on the floor. His pillow, which had no pillow case, was also covered with stains. There was no box spring. The mattress was surrounded on all sides by debris. Upon awakening, Chad told Esen "this is his bedroom." On the other side of the hallway, Esen saw defendant's bedroom and observed it was "in a worse condition than" Chad's room.
Esen concluded "the child cannot sleep in that house and with that odor and the flies in the house." She therefore removed Chad from the home and he ...