NJ Woman Gets Prison for Negligent Death of Child
News reports recently circulated online about the depressing death of a two-year-old child. The child sadly died while sitting in a car seat for several hours as her mother was under the influence of drugs. The mother was criminally charged with manslaughter and later sentenced to 15 years in NJ State Prison.
This case stemmed from a decade-long involvement with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCPP), which, unfortunately, could not prevent the tragic death of this child. The mother was first investigated by the Department in 1997. Over the course of a decade, the mother had several other children and had her parental rights terminated by the court. In 2013, the mother gave birth to another child; given the mother’s history, the child was placed with the natural farther. In addition, the court ordered that all contact with the child be supervised and further ordered that the mother had to engage in substance abuse treatment. Over a period of several years, the Department’s case involving the mother remained open. During that time, the mother had several relapses, resulting in intervention and action by the court. Tragically, in August 2017, despite strong efforts by NJ authorities, the child was found deceased in the mother’s car.
In cases like this, parental rights can be terminated, meaning that the parents have no legal right to see or interact with their children. In order for such severe action to be taken, however, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency must demonstrate to the Court, by clear and convincing evidence, the following four factors:
- The child’s health and development had been or will continue to be endangered by the parental relationship.
- 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.
- The Division has made diligent 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. “Services” refers to counseling, therapy, and similar forms of treatment and help. Alternatives may include placing the child with a relative until the parental concerns have been resolved. Another alternative could be placing the child with a kinship legal guardian, which allows the parent to maintain some parental rights, such as visitation while the guardian serves as the child’s primary parent and decision maker.
- Termination of the parent’s rights will not do more harm than good.