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New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency v. E.B.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

November 15, 2013

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY, [1] Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
E.B., Defendant-Appellant IN THE MATTER OF D.W.G., a minor

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Telephonically Argued October 23, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Burlington County, Docket Number FN-03-126-12.

Beryl Foster-Andres, Designated Counsel, argued the cause for appellant (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney; Mr. Foster-Andres, on the brief).

James R. Griffin, Jr., Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent (John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney; Lisa A. Puglisi, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Mr. Griffin, on the brief).

David B. Valentin, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for minor D.W.G (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney; Mr. Valentin, on the brief).

Before Judges Parrillo and Kennedy.

PER CURIAM

Defendant E.B. appeals from the July 31, 2012 order of the Family Part, entered after a Title 9 fact-finding hearing, that determined she abused and neglected her son D.W.G. For the following reasons, we reverse.

At the time of the incident in question, E.B. was twenty-eight years old. She is the biological mother of D.W.G., who was born on March 4, 2009.[2] E.B. shares a home with her son, her thirty-two year old brother K.B., and their grandmother. E.B. and her son share a bedroom in the basement of the home, and K.B. has a separate bedroom there as well.

In the evening of January 17, 2012, C.G. came over to share drinks and talk with her cousin, E.B., who was upset because her mother had passed away in 2010, and both her grandmother and father had just been hospitalized. Prior to visiting with C.G. upstairs, E.B. put her son in the bed they shared in the basement bedroom and turned on cartoons for him to watch. K.B., the child's uncle, was nearby in his bedroom watching television until he fell asleep.

During this visit, the cousins drank, [3] talked and watched a movie. Thereafter, E.B. returned to her bedroom, where her son was already sleeping. C.G. left through a door in the first-floor kitchen and may have inadvertently forgotten to close it properly.

While everyone was sleeping, D.W.G. left the house and wandered the neighborhood wearing only a polo shirt and diaper. At around 10:00 p.m., the Edgewater Park Township Police received a call from a resident that a toddler was found walking around the neighborhood alone, knocking on doors. The resident did not recognize D.W.G. or know where he lived. The police responded, and transported D.W.G. to the hospital for examination, where it was determined that the child was unharmed and in good overall health. His identity, however, was still unknown at the time.

Meanwhile, at around 1:00 a.m., K.B. awoke and went upstairs to the kitchen for a snack, when he noticed the door that led outside to the yard was wide open. He then went downstairs to E.B.'s room and noticed that D.W.G. was not sleeping in the bed. K.B. woke up E.B. and informed her that D.W.G. was missing. E.B. became hysterical. After ...


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