Highest court criticizes DYFS
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
BY MARY FUCHS
STATE HOUSE BUREAU
In a unanimous decision today, New Jersey’s Supreme Court criticized the state Division of Youth and Family Services for ending an investigation of a woman who had "abused and neglected" her two children.
DYFS should have decided in court where the children could live, free from harm, instead of awarding custody to the woman’s ex-husband, said the justices.
"Rather than relying on the wishes of the children, the division should have focused on whether the children could be safely returned to the custody of the mother," Justice John Wallace wrote for the court.
The case involves a custody battle between a Hunterdon County woman and her ex-husband, who now lives in Florida, over their two children. All of the individuals’ names are protected by the court and were not released.
One night in March 2006, the daughter texted her father, saying that she was having an argument with her mother. From Florida, the ex-husband called New Jersey State Police, who came to the woman’s home and allegedly found her drunk. The daughter had scratches on her arm and had become sick after her mom grabbed her and choked her.
State Police Trooper Kelly Bene called the Division of Youth and Family Services and a case worker came to the home that night. Both children told her that their mother drank every day. The case worker temporarily moved the children to a neighbor’s home.
Through DYFS, the woman accepted substance abuse treatment and counseling, while the kids were temporarily sent to Florida, to live with their father. Eight months after DYFS got involved in the case, the trial court followed the agency’s recommendation and awarded permanent custody of the two kids to the father, in Florida.
A state appeals court previously ruled DYFS and the trial court had made a mistake because they had not weighed the evidence and the woman’s progress when deciding where it was safest for the children to live. Now a lower court will have to do that in deciding which parent will get custody.
Mary Fuchs is a reporter for The Star-Ledger. She may be reached at email@example.com
Am I missing something here? Is this court saying that an alcoholic, abusive woman is better for the children than a loving Father? Maybe there is more to this story but with the names withheld I can’t find any more info on this family.
Seems its the text-book case for a reversal of custody but the high court has thrown it out and the process has begun all over again. It seems to me the Child Protective Services did exactly what they were supposed to do in this case.
If anyone has any more information on this case I would love to hear it.
Ken Maddox of