New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency v. G.T., 061316 NJSUP, A-0477-15T2
|Opinion Judge:||PER CURIAM.|
|Party Name:||NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. G.T., Defendant-Appellant, and S.B., Defendant. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF B.K.B. and R.C.B., Minors.|
|Attorney:||Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Marc D. Pereira, Designated Counsel, on the brief). Robert Lougy, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Melissa H. Raksa, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Cynthia Phillips, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief). Josep...|
|Judge Panel:||Before Judges Simonelli and Carroll.|
|Case Date:||June 13, 2016|
|Court:||Superior Court of New Jersey|
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 31, 2016
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Atlantic County, Docket No. FG-01-13-15.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Marc D. Pereira, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Robert Lougy, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Melissa H. Raksa, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Cynthia Phillips, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minors (Cory H. Cassar, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Before Judges Simonelli and Carroll.
Defendant G.T. appeals from the Family Part's September 14, 2015 judgment terminating her parental rights to two children, Beth and Ryan, 1 who were born in 2 009 and 2 012, respectively.2Defendant contends that the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (Division) failed to prove each of the four prongs of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a) by clear and convincing evidence. The Law Guardian supports the termination of parental rights. After reviewing the evidence presented to the trial court, and in light of prevailing legal standards and the arguments presented, we affirm.
We will not recite in detail the history of the Division's involvement with defendant. Instead, we incorporate by reference the factual findings and adopt the legal conclusions contained in Judge Damon G. Tyner's twenty-eight page written decision. We add the following comments.
Judge Tyner conducted a two-day guardianship trial on August 31 and September 1, 2015. The Division presented the testimony of expert psychologist Alan J. Lee, Psy.D., and adoption caseworker Jessica Wittek. Defendant and S.B. testified but presented no expert testimony.
Judge Tyner carefully reviewed the evidence presented, and concluded that the Division proved by clear and convincing evidence the four prongs of the best interests test, codified in N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a) to -15.1(a)(4) as follows: (1) The child's safety, health or development has been or will continue to be endangered by the parental relationship;
(2) The parent is unwilling or unable to eliminate the harm facing the child or is unable or unwilling to provide a safe and stable home for the child and the delay of permanent placement will add to the harm
(3) The [D]ivision has made reasonable efforts to provide services to help the parent correct the circumstances which led to the child's placement outside the home and the court has considered alternatives to termination of parental rights; and
(4) Termination of parental rights will not do more harm than good.
See also N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. A.W., 103 N.J. 591, 604-11 (1986).
Pertinent to this appeal, Judge Tyner found Dr. Lee's testimony credible and reliable. Dr. Lee diagnosed defendant with opioid dependence, a history of polysubstance abuse, major depressive disorder, and personality disorder NOS with borderline antisocial traits. He indicated that defendant's score of thirty-eight on the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) test reflected ongoing substance abuse and other long-term issues that remained unresolved and "represent[ed] a poor prognosis for change." In addition to defendant's inability to remain drug-free despite having completed three intensive outpatient treatment programs, Dr. Lee opined that defendant "cannot manage common daily obstacles in life." The judge concluded that Dr. Lee "testified credibly that [defendant] could not provide the permanency and stability that the minor children required."
Judge Tyner also found Wittek's testimony credible and that she "went above and beyond" in appropriately informing defendant of the required services, visitation and court dates, and in providing defendant with bus passes to attend visits and services. Additionally, the judge found: [ ] Wittek credibly testified that [ ] [defendant] would not comply with the special needs of Beth and Ryan during her visits with the children. In regards to Ryan,  Wittek testified that [defendant] would not...
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