NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES, DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES,  Petitioner-Respondent,
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 17, 2013
On appeal from the Division of Youth and Family Services, Department of Children and Families, Docket No. AHU 10-0621.
The Blanco Law Firm, attorneys for appellant (Pablo N. Blanco, on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Virginia Class-Matthews, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Before Judges Alvarez and Carroll.
Defendant L.R. appeals from an order of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), Division of Youth and Family Services (Division), affirming a finding of neglect and entering her name in the child abuse registry pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.11. We affirm.
During the early morning hours of January 31, 2010, the Division received an anonymous telephone call reporting that L.R. left her son, N.M., then age ten, and her daughter, D.M., then age seven, home alone when she went to work earlier that evening. The Division alerted the Wayne Police Department, which responded to the family's apartment and found the children unattended. The Division's resulting investigation substantiated the allegation of neglect, based on its determination that L.R. left her minor children home alone overnight, from the evening of January 30, 2010, until the morning of January 31, 2010, while she was at work. Previously, on two occasions in 2009, the Division had received reports that L.R. had left the children home alone. However, since L.R. was home and the children denied the allegations, the Division determined those prior incidents to be "unfounded."
L.R. requested an administrative hearing with regard to the Division's finding of neglect for inadequate supervision of the children overnight on January 30, 2010. The matter was then transmitted to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for a contested hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). N.J.S.A. 52:14F-1 to -13.
The hearing was held on March 9, 2012 before ALJ Diana C. Sukovich. Two witnesses testified on behalf of the Division: Wayne Police Detective Paul Kuruc, and Division intake worker Jenny Sierra. L.R. testified on her own behalf. The documentary evidence considered by the ALJ included: (1) a January 31, 2010 screening summary; (2) Sierra's investigation summary dated January 31, 2010; and (3) the Wayne Police Department investigation report.
The evidence upon which the ALJ reached her initial decision and recommendation revealed that L.R. is employed as a school aide weekdays from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. She is also employed at a hotel on weekends from 12:00 a.m. until 8:00 a.m. L.R. and the children reside in a first-floor apartment in Wayne that is part of a larger residential apartment complex consisting of approximately 380 units.
Det. Kuruc testified that when police arrived after receiving the anonymous call they knocked on the apartment door but initially got no response. According to their reports, the officers knocked on the front and rear outer doors and windows. After approximately one hour, after receiving no response, they contacted the building superintendent, who unsuccessfully attempted to gain access using a key for the front door. The officers continued to knock on the door, and eventually D.M. opened it, crying and stating to them, "Please don't arrest us, our mom is not home." N.M. then emerged after his young sister, stating, "Please don't take us. We did not do anything wrong."
The children informed Kuruc that L.R. was working at the hotel, and that they were left home alone because L.R. could not get a babysitter or someone to watch them. They further stated that this had occurred previously on several occasions. L.R. was called at the hotel and returned to the apartment a short time later. She too told Kuruc that she left the children home alone because she had ...