An appeals court upheld stripping parental rights from a New Jersey couple after a long series of damaging behavior, including when the mother took the children to a priest for an exorcism while the father was in prison.
Thursday's ruling means the children will remain with a foster mother who adopted them after the state took them away from the Middlesex County couple.
The children, now 7 and 6 years old, were 3 and 2 when the mother brought them to the priest because she was hearing voices and fighting an urge to give the kids to the devil, authorities said. The children's father was serving a prison sentence for aggravated assault and robbery at the time.
The exorcism request prompted the state to put the children in foster care. Over the next three years, the mother had four psychiatric hospitalizations and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, officials said.
The mother routinely failed to take her prescribed medication and was discharged from parental classes for poor attendance and confrontational behavior, according to court documents. She was also jailed twice during that span for receiving stolen property and testing positive for cocaine and marijuana on several occasions.
The foster mother decided to adopt them, and the state moved to terminate the couple's parental rights, officials said.
Court documents identified the parents only by their initials, J.G. for the mother and S.M.J. for the father, and the children by fake names, Jack and Mala.
A Superior Court judge found the mother had done little to treat her hallucinations and the father refused to treat his substance abuse.
The appellate panel agreed with the judge's assessment that removing the children from their foster mother would be "a severe and enduring loss to the children."
"(The) father was undoubtedly aware of the mother's psychiatric problems, yet did nothing to ensure the children's safety and stability," the judges wrote. "Instead, he was incarcerated for months at a time and refused to acknowledge or treat his longstanding addiction to cocaine."