New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency, Plaintiff-Respondent,
A.S.K., and T.T., Defendants, and E.M.C., Defendant-Appellant. In the Matter of the Guardianship of N.D.K., A.E.C., and E.S.K., minors.
January 2, 2019
appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose
opinion is reported at ___ N.J.Super. ___ (App. Div. 2017).
S. Licata, Designated Counsel, argued the cause for appellant
(Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Office of Parental
Representation, attorney; Clara S. Licata, of counsel and on
M. Gregory, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for
respondent (Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General, attorney;
Sara M. Gregory, on the briefs, Jason W. Rockwell, Assistant
Attorney General, of counsel and on the briefs).
Valentin, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause
for minor A.E.C. (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law
Guardian, attorney; David Valentin, on the briefs).
Court considers the Appellate Division's affirmance of
the trial court's decision to terminate the parental
rights of E.M.C. ("Eric") to his son, A.E.C.
("Adam") based on the record and the application of
the best-interests-of-the-child test.
was born on November 14, 2009, and began residing with Eric
in March 2012. Before Adam came to live with him, Eric had
last seen him in July 2011.
first referral to the Division of Child Protection and
Permanency (the Division) was made in April 2012, after Eric
brought twenty-nine month-old Adam to the pediatrician with
severe eczema. Adam was undernourished, weighing twenty-one
pounds, the weight of a child half his age. His speech was
mumbled. Eric cooperated with the Division's
investigation. The April 2012 investigation summary reported
Eric "followed-up with all the child's medical
appointments" and Adam was "now up to date with his
immunizations and . . . receiving treatment for his
eczema." Because Adam was residing with Eric, the
allegation of abuse and neglect against Adam's mother,
A.K. ("Ali") was deemed unsubstantiated.
September 2012, a second referral to the Division was made by
an anonymous neighbor of Ali's, reporting drug use by
Ali, her sister and mother while children were in their care.
The investigation confirmed Adam continued to reside with
Eric at this time and, although child welfare concerns
persisted regarding Ali's admitted drug use, the
allegations of neglect and inadequate supervision were deemed
to be unfounded.
gave birth to a third child in June 2013, and alleged Eric
was the biological father. Eric's fiancée was
displeased that Eric had another child with Ali and, by July
2013, Adam returned to live with Ali.
December 2013, the Division was granted care and supervision
of all three of Ali's children. The children were
eventually placed with M.L. ("Maisie"), a resource
identified by Ali. The Division was unable to contact Eric
because his whereabouts were unknown.
and June 2014, the Division embarked upon an extensive search
to locate Eric. The search ended, by coincidence, on June 18,
2014, during an unannounced home visit to Ali. Eric emerged
from her residence as Ali was speaking with the caseworker.
The caseworker exchanged contact information with Eric. She
also advised him a Family Team Meeting was scheduled and it
was important for him to attend. Eric did not attend the
meeting and, after the caseworker contacted him about the
importance of attendance, his telephone number was shut off.
The Division's goal changed from reunification for the
three children to adoption in January 2015 and a guardianship
complaint was filed.
Division was again unable to locate Eric for an extended
period of time. The Primary Worker on this matter testified
she was in the process of checking addresses for him when his
grandmother provided an address. While she was on her way
there, she received a call from Eric, who had been called by
his grandmother, and was then able to meet with him.
Eric's first appearance in the guardianship litigation
was on January ...