NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES,  Plaintiff-Respondent,
C.V., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF J.B. and A.V., Minors.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 30, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Warren County, Docket No. FN-21-111-09.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Lora B. Glick, Designated Counsel, on the briefs).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Kristina Miles, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minors (Karen A. Lodeserto, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Before Judges St. John and Leone.
Defendant C.V. (Carol) is the mother of J.V. (Jane), born February 26, 2007, and A.V. (Ann), born May 6, 2008. J.B. (Joseph), who is the father of both children, was a party to the underlying litigation, but did not participate in it and is not the subject of this appeal. At a fact-finding hearing on June 25, 2009, the Division presented the testimony of a caseworker and introduced into evidence several exhibits concerning its investigation. Carol testified on her own behalf. Following the hearing, the Family Part judge determined that defendant had neglected Jane and Ann, having found "inappropriate" cleanliness, sleeping arrangements and medical care.
Thereafter, the Division provided various services to Carol and Joseph. On May 3, 2012, the judge entered an order terminating the litigation because the children had been returned home and the conditions had been remediated.
On appeal, Carol argues that the judge's neglect determination was unsupported by the evidence and based on inadmissible hearsay. Carol further contends that the Division failed to prove that she did not exercise a minimum degree of care.
As reflected in the Division's reports, Carol first came to its attention by way of an October 2007 referral, which raised concerns about Jane's welfare, including inadequate supervision and hygiene, substandard nutrition, and a lack of appropriate cold-weather clothing and other supplies. The Division investigated and concluded that the allegations were unfounded. Nevertheless, the case remained open and the Division conducted follow-up visits at Carol's home.
During a January 2008 visit, a Division caseworker observed that Carol's home was cluttered and advised her to clean it. Carol was noted to be twenty-three weeks pregnant with Ann at the time. At the next visit in February, the caseworker discovered that the home remained cluttered and again advised Carol to tidy it up, which she agreed to do. In March, the caseworker once more found the dwelling to be cluttered and reiterated that Carol needed to clean her home. Thereafter, the Division closed the case.
In July 2008, the Division reopened its inquiry after receiving another referral about Carol and her children. It was reported that Carol left the children unaccompanied at home and that the residence was "filthy, " smelled "like garbage, " and contained so much "stuff all over" that it was difficult to navigate. Consequently, a worker from the Division Special Response Unit (SPRU) inspected Carol's home and observed that it was squalid. The SPRU worker noticed that Jane was walking around in the trash barefoot. Her stomach was covered in ink as she had been drawing on ...