NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
C.C. and L.M., Defendants-Appellants. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF F.M.M., a minor.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 23, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Union County, Docket No. FG-20-25-12.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant C.C. (Anthony J. Vecchio, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant L.M. (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; Erin O'Leary, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian for minor-respondent F.M.M. (Todd Wilson, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Before Judges Yannotti, Ashrafi and Leone.
C.C. and L.M. appeal from a judgment entered by the Family Part on August 23, 2012, terminating their parental rights to the minor child, F.M.M. We affirm.
C.C. and L.M. are the parents of F.M.M., who was born in August 2010, when C.C. was forty-three years old and L.M. was fifty-three years old. In October 2010, F.M.M. was admitted to a hospital with first and second-degree burns to her legs, abdomen and genitalia. F.M.M. was scalded while C.C. was giving the child a bath. She left the child in the sink, turned off the cold water and left the hot water running. C.C. heard the child's screams and removed her from the water.
C.C. did not, however, immediately seek medical assistance. L.M. had been out shopping when F.M.M. was burned. He returned about twenty minutes after the child was injured. He told C.C. to call the doctor. Two persons who were living with C.C. And L.M. reported that it took C.C. an hour to seek emergency medical care.
The Division's workers investigated the incident. Among other things, the workers learned that C.C. was taking medications for certain medical problems, which include cerebral palsy. C.C. reported that she was unemployed but received monthly Supplemental Security Income. L.M. also was unemployed, but volunteered at a local mission, sold newspapers at a nearby fast-food restaurant, and received food stamps. The persons living with C.C. and L.M. in their two-bedroom apartment provided some financial assistance.
The Division determined that the allegations of abuse or neglect had been substantiated. Accordingly, on November 1, 2010, the Division conducted an emergency removal of the child from C.C.'s and L.M.'s care. On November 3, 2010, the Division filed an order to show cause and complaint in the Family Part, seeking care, custody and supervision of the child. The judge entered an order on that date, granting the Division's application. F.M.M. was placed with a foster mother whose primary language is Spanish.
Thereafter, the Division provided services to C.C. and L.M. with the goal of reunification. The Division referred C.C. and L.M. to psychological, psychiatric and substance abuse evaluations, parenting skills courses, and individual counseling.
C.C. was referred for intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment but the provider determined she was not an appropriate candidate for the program because of her cognitive limitations and use of prescription medications. C.C. and L.M. were permitted to have weekly supervised visits with F.M.M., but during some of those visits, C.C. acted inappropriately. C.C. also was referred for a neurological evaluation. The doctor who performed the evaluation said that C.C. lacked the capacity to care for F.M.M.
In January 2011, C.C. and L.M. informed the Division that one of the persons who had been living with them moved out and they needed help with their rental payments. The Division referred C.C. and L.M. to the local welfare office for assistance.
In February 2011, the trial court conducted a fact-finding hearing and determined by a preponderance of evidence that C.C. had abused or neglected F.M.M. by allowing her to be scalded in the bath. The court found that C.C.'s conduct amounted to gross negligence.
In March 2011, C.C. and L.M. were evicted from their apartment, and the Division again referred them to the local welfare office for assistance. They moved to a hotel. In July 2011, C.C. and L.M. advised the Division that they had found a new home.
The Division agreed to provide C.C. and L.M. with money for a security deposit. The caseworker spoke to the landlord, who said C.C. and L.M. had not paid any rent and he was going to evict them because they had been disturbing other tenants.
In September 2011, C.C. and L.M. were evicted from the apartment. They were sleeping in the Division's offices. Thereafter, C.C. and L.M. moved to a boarding house. They had a single room and they shared bathroom facilities with other persons residing there.
In October 2011, the trial court conducted a permanency hearing and approved the Division's plan for termination of C.C.'s and L.M.'s parental rights, with adoption by the foster parent to follow. On January 17, 2012, the ...