NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES , Plaintiff-Respondent,
L.H., Defendant-Appellant, and M.R., Defendant. IN THE MATTER OF J.H., a minor.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 7, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FN-09-0274-10.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Brian D. Driscoll, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Jonathan Villa, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minor J.H. (Damen J. Thiel, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Before Judges Parrillo, Kennedy and Guadagno.
Following a fact-finding hearing in this Title 9 litigation filed by the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) against defendant L.H. (Lisa) and M.R. (Mica),  the trial judge concluded that on January 28, 2010, Lisa had abused and neglected her four-year old step-son D.S. (Dan), by beating him with her hands and striking him in the face with a belt. In a lengthy letter opinion accompanying the judge's August 24, 2010 order, he explained, in pertinent part,
[t]he photographs marked P-3 into evidence are quite disturbing. They show injuries to both sides of [Dan]'s face. A linear mark can be seen by his right temple between his right eye heading towards his right ear and the exact same mark can be seen between his left eye heading towards his left ear. Also, bruises can be seen on his upper cheeks and his forehead. It must also be stressed that P-1 in evidence indicates that on several occasions [Dan] said that [Lisa]  hit him with a belt as well as with her hands on January 28, 2012. . . .
. . . .
The injuries depicted in the four photographs marked P-3 into evidence did not come from a fall down accident and served to "corroborate" the hearsay statement of [Dan], N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.46a(4). These injuries also did not result from a simple open handed series of slaps to the face. Something more insidious occurred, possibly involving a belt or its buckle.
The court acknowledges that its findings of abuse and neglect against [Lisa]  [are] based on a single event involving the beating administered on the evening of January 28, 2010. However, the resulting damage was sufficient enough to attract the attention of the school authorities the very next day, as well as DYFS and the prosecutor's office.
It would be illogical to suggest that the beating resulting in the injuries depicted in P-3 was merely an anecdotal event in the development of four-year old [Dan], something he would soon forget.
Lisa appeals the abuse and neglect finding and raises the ...