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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. M.A.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

November 19, 2013

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, [1] Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
M.A. and J.B., Defendants-Appellants IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF E.B.A., C.G.B., and J.R.B.A., Minors

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION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, Union County, Docket No. FG-20-19-11.

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant M.A. (William J. Sweeney, Designated Counsel, on the briefs).

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant J.B. (Jason A. Frank, Designated Counsel, on the briefs).

John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Christina G. Ramirez, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for the minors (Olivia Belfatto Crisp, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, on the brief).

Before Judges Reisner and Alvarez.

PER CURIAM

Defendants M.A. and J.B., who for the sake of anonymity will be referred to as Mary and Richard, appeal the termination of their parental rights. Mary and Richard have three children, whom we will refer to as Jane, Tom, and Jim, born in 2003, 2007, and 2009 respectively. For the reasons stated in Judge Kathryn A. Brock's comprehensive and cogent June 26, 2012 104-page opinion, we affirm with only the following comments.

The trial, conducted over eleven days, ended on June 20, 2012. While it was ongoing, defendants were incarcerated pending the disposition of charges filed against them relative to their conduct towards the children. Mary was charged with child endangerment and Richard with aggravated sexual assault.

Although not fully detailed in the record, it appears that in February 2013, Richard, and then in May 2013, Mary, entered guilty pleas to lesser charges of disorderly persons simple assault. After disposition of their matters, they were turned over to the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) to await deportation, as both are undocumented Guatemalan citizens. At some unspecified time thereafter, both were released from custody.

The information regarding their release, and the fact the resource family with whom the children resided during the termination hearing no longer wished to adopt them, was provided post-judgment pursuant to an order allowing the record to be supplemented. Jane was born in Guatemala, and brought here by her parents; the boys were born in this country.

In order to understand our brief discussion, some background is necessary. In July 2009, Jane's summer school teacher made a referral to plaintiff New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (Division). As a result, the Division initiated Title 9 litigation and effectuated a Dodd removal because Jane's face, limbs, and chest had multiple bruises and lacerations in various stages of healing, and the child reported that her mother struck her every day. See N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.29.

Jane and Tom later disclosed that their mother would punish them by locking them in a dark bathroom for hours. The children's first resource family reported that both children had an aversion to being in the bathroom with the door locked.

On September 9, 2009, Mary stipulated under oath that she had hit Jane with both an open and closed hand, grabbed her hair and pulled very hard. She later denied having engaged in such conduct, explaining that she made the statements solely on her attorney's advice. Richard, in turn, admitted seeing Mary "pop" Jane on the mouth, but denied knowing that she had struck her with such force that she inflicted bruises.

In November 2009, Jane disclosed that her father had showed her pornography both on the family television as well as his cell phone, and that he would put his hands under her clothing and touch her vaginal area. She reported that he touched her inappropriately some ten times, and that she asked him to stop because it hurt. Jane said that when she would tell her mother, Mary would beat her and tell her to stop lying.

During a videotaped interview with a county detective conducted in 2011, although Jane said her mother only locked her brother in the bathroom, and not her, she revealed for the first time that her mother made her kneel on popcorn kernels, leaving little marks she described as being like raindrops on her knees; put chili peppers in her mouth that made her throw up; and when she had not known how to wash clothes, put soap in her mouth, which hurt her mouth. The children also claimed their parents punished them by tightening a cord around their hands.

Gladibel Medina, M.D., who initially examined Jane after the Dodd removal to address the physical abuse, conducted a second examination of the child after the sexual molestation was reported. Jane told the doctor that after her father would touch her, her vagina would hurt, and she could not go to the bathroom because it would burn when she urinated. Medina explained at trial that the burning sensation was consistent with urine flowing over a child's vagina ...


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