TRENTON – An Atlantic Highlands mother who mistakenly left her 4-year-old home unattended under the mistaken assumption that her mother also was home asleep was not neglectful and her name should be removed from the Division of Youth and Family Services Child Abuse Registry, the State Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The mother, named Susan in court papers, went out to dinner with friends, leaving her son under the care of her grandmother, Mary, who is normally home on Sunday nights. Susan assumed her mother was home because her car was in the driveway. But Mary and her husband James, who is Susan’s stepfather, went on a trip to New York and were not home to care for Susan’s son John. John awoke in the middle of the night, and nobody was home. That prompted him to leave his house and tell his neighbor across the street that he could not find his mother.
The Office of Administrative law originally dismissed charges against the mother. However, the director of DYFS rejected the judge’s decision saying that Susan “failed to take the cautionary actions of supervision that are expected,” and that the “omission exposed him to substantial risk of harm.” Her decision was held by the Appellate Division.
However, the Supreme Court ruled that Susan was not reckless in her actions.
“What occurred was totally out of the ordinary,” the court ruled. “Susan’s failure to perform the cautionary act of assuring her mother’s presence was clearly negligent. Under all of the circumstances known to her, however, it did not rise to the level of gross negligence or recklessness.”