NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
M.W. and W.W., Defendants-Appellants. IN THE MATTER OF D.W. AND W.C.W., Minors.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted July 16, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No FN-04-155-12.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant M.W. (Eric R. Foley, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant W.W. (Shepard Kays, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Lisa A Puglisi, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Nancy R. Andre, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minors D.W. and W.C.W. (Janet L. Fayter, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Before Judges Ostrer and Hayden.
These are consolidated appeals from a Title Nine protective services proceeding. Defendants M.W. (Martha) and W.W. (Walter) appeal from the trial judge's March 14, 2012 order, which found that they abused or neglected their two children, D.W. (Donna), born August 12, 2008, and W.C.W. (Wade), born June 22, 2010. They argue that the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division) failed to prove by a preponderance of credible evidence that either parent abused or neglected their children. We disagree and affirm the order as to Martha, but agree and reverse the order as to Walter.
The record reveals the following facts. The Division first became involved with defendants' family on August 2, 2010, after receiving a referral questioning the parents' fitness to care for their children due to substance abuse and mental health concerns. During the ensuing investigation, a Division caseworker, Albert Newkirk, located Martha at a hospital, where she had been admitted for kidney problems. Martha denied suffering from mental illness, but acknowledged that she had completed a rehabilitation program for mental health and substance abuse issues. Martha expressed her fear that Walter, who had attended the same program, had relapsed and was using crack cocaine. Martha stated that the couple had engaged in several domestic disputes wherein the police were contacted, including one incident which led to her incarceration. At the conclusion of its investigation, the Division effectuated an emergency removal and placed the children in foster care.
The next day, Walter met with Newkirk and acknowledged that Martha needed assistance caring for the children because she had "ADHD" and did not take medication. Walter reported he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression and had not taken medication in three years. Walter admitted that the police frequented their home due to recurrent domestic disputes, but denied any relapse into drug abuse.
The Division filed a verified complaint alleging abuse and neglect on August 4, 2010, and the court granted it custody of both children. After participating in services, Martha and Walter regained custody on March 21, 2011. The court terminated the litigation on June 14, 2011, finding that the conditions that prompted removal had been remediated. The family continued to receive services from the Division, including in-home counseling.
On July 12, 2011, Martha called the Division emergency "hotline" to report that she believed that Walter used crack cocaine while caring for the children. Two Division caseworkers went to the family home that evening and observed it to be appropriate, free of hazards, and ...