NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff-Respondent,
H.W., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF A.W., A Minor.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 9, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FG-07-115-12.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (John A. Salois, Designated Counsel, on the briefs).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Cristina E. Ramundo, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minor (Nancy P. Fratz, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, on the brief).
Before Judges Simonelli and Haas.
Defendant H.W. appeals from the June 19, 2012 judgment of guardianship of the Family Part terminating her parental rights to her daughter, A.W. (Alice). She argues the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) did not prove the four prongs of the termination statute by clear and convincing evidence. The Office of Law Guardian supports the termination on appeal as it did before the trial court.
Based on our review of the record and applicable law, we are satisfied the evidence in favor of the guardianship petition overwhelmingly supports the decision to terminate H.W.'s parental rights. Accordingly, we affirm substantially for the reasons set forth in Judge David Katz's thorough written opinion issued on June 19, 2012 and in the supplemental, oral opinion he rendered on January 10, 2013. We add the following comments.
We previously reviewed a decision by the Family Part finding that H.W. abused and neglected Alice, and we begin by referencing the essential background facts as set forth in our earlier opinion. N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. H.W., No. A-1161-11 (App. Div. Oct. 18, 2012) (slip op. at 2-6). The Division first became involved with the family on February 18, 2010 after H.W. and Alice were observed by a police officer sitting in a car parked in front of a furniture store. Id. at 4. The officer ran a license plate check that revealed the car was a rental vehicle and that the rental agency had reported it stolen in July 2009. Ibid. The officer arrested H.W., who made arrangements for her sister to come to the police station to pick up Alice. Id. at 5. The sister advised the Division that H.W. had previously been treated for mental illness. Id. at 6. The sister subsequently returned the child to the Division's care and custody. Ibid.
Thereafter, H.W. was never able to resume custody of Alice. When she was released from jail after the stolen car charge was dismissed, she lived in a shelter and was unable to secure stable housing. The Division arranged for supervised visitation for H.W. with the child, but she frequently argued with, and threatened, the staff. During the visits, H.W. questioned the child about her foster parents and living arrangements, and also constantly criticized Alice for her appearance. Staff observed that H.W. was unable to engage Alice in activities and would only sit and observe the child. While the child did not demonstrate any developmental delays, over time she became more non-verbal and began acting out in school.
The Division arranged for H.W. to receive psychiatric evaluations. However, she presented false information to one of the doctors and conflicting information to another. She missed two medication monitoring sessions. The Division also scheduled H.W. for counseling sessions, but she was resistant to the Division's request that she participate in parenting skills training.
On May 3, 10, and 24, 2012, Judge Katz conducted a guardianship trial. In addition to relying upon the testimony of its caseworkers, the Division presented expert testimony from Dr. Frank Dyer concerning H.W.'s mental illness. The Law Guardian relied upon the expert testimony of Dr. Eric Kirschner. ...