NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES,  Plaintiff-Respondent,
C.P. and J.W., Defendants, and E.L., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF L.W. and J.W., Minors.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 8, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FN-07-354-12.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Dianne Glenn, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Natalie Behm, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for the minors (Randi Mandelbaum, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Before Judges Alvarez, Ostrer and Carroll.
Defendant E.L. appeals from an April 30, 2012 Family Part order entered after a fact-finding hearing, concluding that he physically and sexually abused his two stepdaughters, Lucy,  then age nine, and Jane, then age six. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
On December 19, 2011, a Dodd removal of the girls was effectuated by plaintiff New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division), pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.29, because school officials reported that Jane was bruised over her face and on her arms. When taken from the school to the hospital, Jane's injuries were photographed. The photographs were introduced during the fact-finding hearing. As described by the Division's investigator, Monique Williams, Jane's injuries included bruises on her face, rug burns on her forehead, welt marks on her arms, a mark on her leg, marks on her buttocks, and a bruise on her lower back.
When transported to the hospital and interviewed by Division workers, the girls disclosed that the bruises resulted from their mother, C.P., rubbing Jane's face on a rug because she had urinated on the floor in her bedroom. During that interview, Jane disclosed that both her mother and E.L. struck her frequently, and that E.L. struck her with a belt. The child also disclosed that E.L. had touched her "in her back hole with his finger, " and that he had "stuck his finger in her butt and then spanked her with his hand on her butt" that very morning before she left for school. Jane told the Division worker that she wanted E.L. arrested because he had warned the girls that if they told anyone about what he did he was going to choke them.
Lucy reported that both E.L. and her mother frequently struck her, and that E.L. hit her with a belt as punishment for failure to clean her room or do her homework. She also revealed that E.L. had repeatedly touched her inappropriately and that, on a daily basis, he put his fingers on her genitalia or "in her hole." Lucy added that he would insert his penis both in her "front and her back." She asserted that this occurred in the morning before she left for school, and that she had not told anyone about the conduct because E.L. threatened to choke her if she did so.
After the Division interview, the girls were placed in a home separate from their older step-brother and step-sister, who were also removed. Lucy said that the step-brother, then an adolescent, had also molested her, but that, as far as she knew, E.L. did not know about his son's sexual contacts with her. Lucy reported that E.L. had also put his penis in her mouth, and had forced her to touch his penis.
When evaluated, Lucy was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, was experiencing flashbacks, and exhibited symptoms of anxiety and fear. She expressed concern that E.L. would kill everyone if his conduct was revealed, and feared that he would again sexually and physically abuse her. The child, who expressed suicidal ideation, engaged in self-injurious behaviors, such as drinking "cough syrup, " ...