Tuesday, June 17, 2014
05/08/14 NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES
VS .N.D., J.P. AND A.J. IN THE MATTER OF E.D.
A few days after ingesting cocaine, N.D. gave birth to a child who tested positive for the drug but displayed no signs of withdrawal. At a fact-finding hearing, the Division introduced evidence that the infant was born premature and underweight, but presented no medical evidence to connect these conditions to the mother's druguse. The Family Part found the mother put the child at risk by her use of cocaine.
The fact-finding took place before the decision in Department of Children & Families v. A.L., 213 N.J. 1 (2013), and the Family Part judge did not have the benefit of the Court's holding that drug use by a parent during pregnancy, standing alone, may not substantiate a finding of abuse or neglect. We reversed the finding of abuse or neglect and took the unusual step of remanding with a direction to re-open the fact-finding hearing to permit the parties to present medical or expert testimony as to whether the mother's consumption of cocaine caused harm to the child.