In a recent unpublished decision, DYFS v. J.C.G., the Appellate Division reversed the termination of parental rights, highlighting several key principles that govern this area of law:
1. DYFS cannot deny a parent all access to child over years of litigation, then rely upon the absence of a parent-child bond to terminate parental rights (TPR).
2. DYFS has a huge advantage in TPR cases, because the agency has control of the child. Parents are at a distinct disadvantage when defending in these actions.
3. Bare conclusory claims that a child may suffer harm from a bonding evaluation does not justify quashing a parent’s constitutional right to present evidence and conduct their own independent evaluation.
4. Law guardians are REQUIRED to advocate a safe means of accomplishing the child’s wishes in DYFS cases. The Law Guardian cannot supplant what she feels is best for what the child truly desires.
In this case, the Appellate Division also made a point to include reference to the parent’s repeated requests for visitation, which requests were not ruled upon. The trial record clearly reflects a manifest injustice toward the mother – particularly given that DYFS filed its first TPR Complaint a mere ONE YEAR after the litigation began.
The JCG decision serves as an eloquent explication of the state’s duty to seek justice for children – starting with the reunification of families and, thereafter, establishing permanent arrangements for children with foster families only when absolutely necessary to achieve child safety.