NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
G.B. AND T.R., Defendants-Appellants. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF T.B.I.B., A Minor.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 15, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Atlantic County, Docket No. FG-01-0033-11.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant G.B. (Rhonda J. Panken, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant T.R. (Cary L. Winslow, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Lewis A. Scheindlin, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Nora P. Pearce, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for the minor (Karen A. Lodeserto, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Before Judges Yannotti, Ashrafi and St. John.
In these consolidated appeals, we review challenges to a Family Part judgment of guardianship terminating the parental rights of defendants G.B., mother, and T.R., father, and permitting the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (the Division) to secure their child's adoption. On appeal, G.B. and T.R. argue that the Division failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence all four prongs of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a). We have considered these arguments in light of the record and applicable legal standards, and affirm.
T.B.I.B. was born in the beginning of January 2010 to G.B. and T.R., who do not have any other children together. G.B., however, has five other children, all of whom had been removed from her care by the Division prior to the events giving rise to this litigation. Shortly after T.B.I.B.'s birth, a hospital reporter contacted the Division because personnel voiced concerns about "erratic paranoid" behavior by T.R. as well as G.B.'s refusal to submit to a drug screening. Division caseworkers therefore commenced an investigation on January 6 and interviewed defendants. A caseworker described the exchange with T.R. as follows:
It was difficult to communicate with [T.R.] He was angry and hostile. He accused the Division of being racist and he accused the Division of just removing his son because of racist reasons. He often cited quotes from the Bible, which you couldn't really make relevance of.
Upon completing the interviews and discovering G.B.'s prior history with respect to her other children, Division supervisors initiated a "Dodd" removal and took custody of T.B.I.B. on January 8.
The Division had initially encountered G.B. in February 2000, when the police contacted the agency after discovering "deplorable condition[s]" at G.B.'s apartment during an eviction proceeding. The Division consequently removed three of G.B.'s children from her care. In December 2002, G.B. gave birth to a fourth child. The Division immediately removed, and was granted guardianship over, that child. In November 2004, the Division removed a fifth newborn child from G.B. Her parental rights to four out of the five children were ultimately terminated. Those four children were subsequently adopted by their foster families, while the Division has kept the remaining child in protective care due to special needs.
On January 11, 2010, the Division convened a "Family Team Meeting" at its local office, which included defendants, paternal grandmother I.R., and paternal great-grandmother J.P. on behalf of paternal aunt V.N. Both I.R. and V.N. expressed interest in being considered for "relative resource placements, " and defendants apparently agreed to the placement of T.B.I.B. with I.R. At that meeting, I.R. professed that T.R. was incapable of caring for a newborn baby. The Division thereafter evaluated I.R. and determined that she was an "appropriate placement" for T.B.I.B.
On January 12, 2010, the Division filed a complaint seeking temporary custody of T.B.I.B. On the same day, a consent order was entered granting temporary custody to the Division. Also ordered were psychological evaluations of defendants as well as an assessment of relatives who might facilitate supervised visitation. The judge determined that removal was necessary because
[G.B.] has been unable to provide her children with a safe, stable home environment, . . . has demonstrated no ability over the past nine years to establish a safe, stable home environment for her children; and has failed to effectively assume a stabilizing, dependable or nurturing parental role . . . .
T.B.I.B. has remained in the custody and care of his grandmother, I.R., since January 12, 2010. T.B.I.B. lives in I.R.'s home, along with his uncle, I.R.'s youngest adult son. I.R. has enrolled T.B.I.B. in daycare and attends to his medical, educational and other needs.
Pursuant to the January 2010 consent order, T.R. attended a psychological evaluation. John Quintana, Ph.D., conducted that assessment. Dr. Quintana diagnosed T.R. with "delusional disorder grandiose and persecutory, " and recommended further psychiatric treatment, including medication. Dr. Quintana also advised the Division that T.R. should receive parenting skills training.
G.B. also received an initial psychological evaluation by Dr. Quintana in January 2010. G.B. informed him that her other children had been removed from her care because of health and housing problems. Dr. Quintana noted that G.B. was coherent, but defensive and "not very forthcoming." Regarding G.B.'s explanation of the prior history with her other children, Dr. Quintana described her insight as "limited" and "not very extensive." As a result of that evaluation, Dr. Quintana recommended additional psychiatric evaluation, parenting classes and individual counseling.
Upon gaining temporary custody of T.B.I.B., I.R. agreed to a plan of weekly visitation by defendants at her home, in accordance with the consent order and in consultation with the Division. However, in June 2010, I.R. requested that visits by T.R. cease after multiple "outbursts." G.B. continued to have permission for visitations at I.R.'s house, but any future visits with T.R. were to occur at the Division's nearby office.
Meanwhile, after removing T.B.I.B., the Division scheduled psychological evaluations for defendants and referred them to agency-provided services, the Family Life Center (FLC) for parenting skills and Robin's Nest visitation program in particular.
On the May 4, 2010 return date, defendants waived their right to a fact-finding hearing and admitted that they were in need of services. Defendants stipulated to continued Division custody over T.B.I.B, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 30:4C-12. The corresponding order scheduled an August return date for compliance review and noted that "[T.R.] is refusing all services other than FLC."
As the record reflects, what followed next was a recurring pattern of noncompliance by the defendants with court-ordered services. On August 10, 2010, defendants were ordered to complete psychological and psychiatric evaluations. T.R. was additionally ordered to attend anger management counseling. On February 1, 2011, the Family Part, persuaded that neither defendant had been compliant with reasonably-provided services, accepted the Division's permanent plan for adoption of the child by I.R. A permanency order was therefore entered, which extended temporary guardianship of T.B.I.B. and required the Division to ...