I have previously posted several blog entries about custody and parental rights where DYFS (“Division of Youth & Family Services”), NJ’s child protective agency, has involvement. To read those posts click here, here, or here.
On September 29, 2010, the NJ Supreme Court issued an opinion addressing the standards to be applied to a sibling’s request for visitation after children are placed outside the natural family’s home and after they are adopted. The opinion of In the Matter of D.C. and D.C., Minors provides guidelines for those siblings who seek to continue a relationship with their adopted and/or placed siblings and addresses a very important issue for families across this state.
The facts of D.C. can be summed up as follows: Nellie, the biological sister of Hugo and twins sought custody and visitation of her siblings after DYFS removed the children from her mother’s care and placed them in separate homes. In 2005, Nellie, then age 23, resided in Va. Hugo was 14 years old at the time. In 2006, Hugo was placed with Nellie. In 2007, DYFS discussed visitation of the twins with Hugo and Nellie. In August 2007, Va.’s child placement agency (“RDSS”) approved placement of the twins with Nellie and Hugo but expressed concerns about Nellie’s ability to support the children. Based on that concern, visitation was recommended to ease the transition. Then, in late 2007, RDSS rescinded its recommendation for placement of the twins with Nellie and Hugo because of Hugo’s poor grades and Nellie’s job loss.
The biological mother’s parental rights were terminated in December 2007. In January 2008, DYFS approved Nellie as kinship legal guardian of Hugo, but not the twins. At the same time, Nellie was informed visitation with the twins would stop. In April 2008, Nellie filed an action seeking placement of the twins in her care or alternatively reestablishing the sibling visitation. DYFS opposed her application.