NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff-Respondent,
J.H. and W.W., Defendants-Appellants. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF A.W., JR., Minor.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 1, 2013.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, Docket No. FG-12-87-11.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant J.H. (Alan I. Smith, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant W.W. (Susan P. Gifis, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Lisa Puglisi, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Angela Melchionna, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minor A.W., Jr. (David Valentin, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, on the brief).
Before Judges Espinosa, Koblitz and O'Connor.
J.H. (mother) and W.W. (father) are the parents of A.W., born November 11, 2009. The parents appeal the termination of their parental rights to A.W. Following our review of the record and the arguments presented by the parents, the Law Guardian, and the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (Division), we affirm the judgment terminating the parental rights of both parents and awarding the Division guardianship.
At birth A.W. tested positive for cocaine and opiates. After being hospitalized for approximately a month for seizures and other neurological problems, A.W. was discharged to a Special Home Service Provider, where he has remained since. At the time of trial in June 2012, A.W. was two and a half years of age. The foster mother wants to adopt A.W.
A.W. has special needs, for which he has received early intervention services since he was an infant. At two years of age A.W. was still non-verbal and unable to understand or follow commands. Atypical of most children, A.W. slept only four hours a day. When awake he was irritable and aggressive, hitting and biting others and throwing objects around, sometimes violently. A.W. required constant one-on-one supervision.
Concerned about the child's lack of development, insomnia, and aggressive behavior, the foster mother took A.W. to a physician who specializes in developmental medicine. The doctor corroborated the child's "quite disruptive and aggressive" behavior and his inability to speak or follow commands. The doctor concluded A.W. had "severe global developmental delays" with a "very significant language disorder." The only recommendations the doctor could make were that A.W. submit to a sleep study and continue early intervention services. A subsequent sleep study revealed A.W. had sleep apnea; unfortunately, A.W. could not tolerate the treatment prescribed for this disorder.
An assessment by the Division's nurse just a month before trial revealed A.W. was still aggressive and hyperactive, and continued to sleep only four hours a night. Despite his challenging behavior, the foster mother was noted to be affectionate toward and supportive of A.W. The child was also noted to be strongly bonded to the foster mother. Other witnesses testified to the pronounced attachment A.W. has to the foster mother. If physically separated from the foster mother for just moments, A.W. cries and screams inconsolably until the mother reappears. One expert psychologist commented ...