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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. V.P.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

October 22, 2013

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, [1] Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
V.P., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF S.L.D., A MINOR.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 17, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Warren County, Docket No. FG-21-115-10.

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Angelo G. Garubo, Designated Counsel, on the brief).

John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Emanuel Asmar, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minor S.L.D. (Karen A. Lodeserto, Designated Counsel, on the brief).

Before Judges Sabatino and Hayden.

PER CURIAM

Defendant V.P. (Vanessa)[2] appeals from a June 25, 2012 Family Part judgment of guardianship, which terminated her parental rights to her daughter S.L.D. (Sandra) and awarded guardianship to the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division).[3] Defendant contends that the Division did not demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence the four prongs of the best interests of the child test, N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a). The Law Guardian supports termination and urges us to affirm the trial judge's determination. Having reviewed the record in light of the contentions of the parties and the applicable law, we affirm.

The record reveals that Vanessa has three children, D.D. (David), born October 16, 1994, S.D. (Samantha), born August 8, 1995, and Sandra, born July 29, 1999. While the children lived with her, Vanessa had difficulties maintaining stability. She was involved in violent and abusive relationships with men who also physically abused the children, she abused heroin, and had unaddressed mental illness. Due to her numerous problems, Vanessa was unable to supervise and care for her children. This resulted in David being sexually abused by Vanessa's brother, and in turn David sexually abusing both his sisters. Vanessa also failed to get the children to school on time or at all, and failed to get routine medical care and necessary medication for the children.

The family first came to the Division's attention in 2000, and thereafter the Division received many referrals but never substantiated abuse or neglect during that time. In 2007, as a result of another referral, the Division identified several child welfare concerns and began working with Vanessa to provide services to the family. Vanessa engaged inconsistently in the recommended treatment and failed to get the children the psychological help they needed, including sexual abuse treatment and fire-starting therapy. Vanessa also agreed to never leave her daughters alone with David because of the prior instances of sexual abuse.

On October 23, 2008, the Division obtained custody of the three children when David and Samantha were found alone together in the home, which did not have electricity, heat, or water. The home was extremely dirty, filled with a dozen cats and a great deal of cat feces and unclean litter. The children continued to miss school and when they did attend, they were in dirty clothes and had flea bites.

Initially, the Division placed Sandra with relatives, but they were unable to care for her. In November 2009, the Division placed Sandra with her current resource parent, J.W., who wants to adopt her. Sandra has been identified as having special needs, including cognitive limitations and emotional fragility, and has been classified as needing special education under an individualized education plan.

After the children's removal, Vanessa acknowledged her heroin addiction, but at first she did not attend the services the Division provided, including drug treatment, psychological counseling, family therapy, and visitation. Eventually, she completed the first part of a drug treatment program, but has not engaged in recommended follow-up treatment. In the year before the trial, she began attending therapy sessions more consistently. The Division's inspections of Vanessa's apartment showed that she was able to keep it clean at times; however, at the last ...


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