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New Jersey Division of Youth & Family Services v. J.S.R.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

November 19, 2013

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
J.S.R., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF J.R.S., a Minor.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 9, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FG-09-131-12.

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Michael C. Kazer, Designated Counsel, on the brief).

John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel and on the brief).

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for J.R.S., a minor (David Valentin, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, of counsel and on the brief).

Before Judges Sapp-Peterson and Maven.

PER CURIAM

Defendant (Joseph), [1] the biological father of J.R.S. (John), appeals from the trial court order terminating his parental rights and granting guardianship to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (the Division)[2] to secure the child's adoption.

On appeal, Joseph argues the evidence was insufficient to satisfy that the statutory requirements of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1a. The Law Guardian supported termination before the trial court and, on appeal, joins the Division in urging us to affirm.

Based on our review of the record and applicable law, we are satisfied that the Division proved by clear and convincing evidence the requisite statutory factors required to terminate Joseph's parental rights. Accordingly, we affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Bernadette N. DeCastro, in her thorough and well-reasoned February 6, 2013 written opinion.

I.

We briefly summarize the relevant facts, drawn from the record established in the trial court. John was born to J.S. (Jennifer)[3] and Joseph on May 28, 2003. Joseph and Jennifer were never married. When John was born, Joseph was incarcerated after being convicted of illegal sexual contact with Jennifer's nine-year-old daughter, Yasmeena. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment, followed by a five-year suspended sentence and ten years' probation with the condition that he not have unsupervised contact with minors. On May 11, 2006, Joseph violated probation by having unsupervised contact with Kyle, and was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment.

In 2008, Joseph was arrested for an act of domestic violence against Jennifer. He pled guilty to third-degree assault and third-degree strangulation, and was sentenced to an aggregate sentence of two and one-half year's suspended sentence and three years of probation. A domestic violence restraining order against Joseph required him to attend anger management counseling. The terms of Joseph's probation prohibited contact with Jennifer and unsupervised visitation with John.

Jennifer and John moved to New Jersey from Connecticut in 2008.[4] The Division received a referral from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) reporting that Jennifer recently relocated to New Jersey and had a history with DCF. DCF reported their involvement began with the June 2003 referral involving Joseph's sexual assault of Yasmeena. Subsequent referrals regarding Jennifer followed, permitting Joseph, a "convicted sexual rapist, " to have unsupervised contact with her children in 2006; testing positive for cocaine and allowing John to handle rat poison in 2007; and being admitted to the hospital because of an intentional overdose and having a positive urine screen for cocaine in 2008.

The Division opened an investigation in September 2008. During an interview with Jennifer, the Division learned she had substantial untreated mental health and substance abuse issues. The Division determined John was unsafe in Jennifer's care and executed an emergency removal, placing John in his first resource home. Thereafter, the Division petitioned for and was granted care, custody, and supervision of John based on allegations of neglect. Despite being notified of the hearing, Joseph failed to appear.

On February 18, 2009, Joseph's Connecticut probation officer informed the Division that Joseph could have visitation with John, supervised by a Division employee aware of the nature of Joseph's conviction. The Division then notified Joseph he could begin supervised visitation with John.

Over the next several months, while the Division worked with Jennifer towards a plan for reunification, Joseph exercised supervised visits with John after court hearings. At a September 9, 2009 permanency hearing, the court accepted the Division's plan for termination of Jennifer and Joseph's parental rights followed by adoption, to take place within six months. With regard to ...


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