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Mother charged with child endangerment ordered to get mental health exam

Over two weeks ago, two boys were found living in a storage locker with their mother. In the mother's most recent court appearance, the Mercer County Superior Court judge order her to undergo a mental health examination as the judge does not understand how a woman could possibly subject her children to such an unacceptable living situation and not seek the aid of local social services. The mother, who has been charged with two counts of second-degree child endangerment, appeared on April 30, 2013 for a bail hearing. The judge ordered a reduction in her bail from $75,000 to $50,000. The mother pleaded to the judge to lower it further as the amount is still too high for her; however, she was denied. In the meantime, she is currently being held at the Mercer County Correction Center while her boys are under the custody and care of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services, DYFS).

As for the future of the boys, the NJ Legislature, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 30:4C-53.1, recognizes that it is in the best interest of the children to return to the children to their home, however, in cases where homelessness persists, the Division has no other choice than to continue the out-of-home placement of children with resource families. The statute states:

a. Due to the severity of health and social problems such as AIDS, drug abuse, and homelessness, the division often works with families over a period of many years, and the children of these families often spend a majority of their young lives in resource family care; and

b. Research has shown that the longer children remain in the resource family care system, the greater number of placements they experience. As a result of these multiple placements, from birth family to resource family home, and from one resource family home to another resource family home, children develop emotional and psychological problems, making it more difficult for them to develop a positive self-image; and

c. (Deleted by amendment, P.L.2004, c. 130).

d. The obligation of the State to recognize and protect the rights of children in the child welfare system should be fulfilled in the context of a clear and consistent policy which limits the repeated placement of children in resource family care and promotes the eventual placement of these children in stable and safe permanent homes.

The Ewing mother's public defender argued that the defendant was "doing the best she could," as the children were healthy and fed. However, the State argued that she failed to utilize local social services, and therefore placed he children at an unnecessary risk.

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