March 1, 2023

In re Anthony S. (AC 45549)

March 2023

Reasonable Efforts to Reunify; Failure to Rehabilitate; Mental Health

Mother appealed the judgment terminating her parental rights.  She was incarcerated following an incident in 2016, during which the child was exposed to an unsafe environment. As a result, DCF placed the child in a licensed home with a maternal cousin and her family, and she was ultimately committed to DCF. The trial court ordered specific steps for Mother to facilitate reunification. In 2019, the trial court approved a permanency plan recommending TPR, and DCF filed for termination of her rights. Father had died prior to the filing of the petition for termination. The Court here held:

  1. The trial court properly determined, by clear and convincing evidence, that DCF had made reasonable efforts to reunify. The record contained ample evidence to support that conclusion, including that DCF had referred Mother to multiple service providers, even after she informed DCF that she would not participate in the therapy that was recommended following a court-order psychiatric evaluation.  DCF also provided Mother, on two occasions, with a security deposit and first month’s rent for an apartment to help her obtain and secure housing after she had been evicted; provided her with transportation and/or bus passes so that she could travel to her appointments and her visits; and provided her with supervised visitation with the child in a myriad of formats and arrangements, despite frequent disruptions during those visits due to her inappropriate and aggressive behavior.
  2. The trial court properly determined that Mother failed to achieve the requisite degree of personal rehabilitation, as required by statute (§ 17a-112 (j) (3) (B) (i)), to reasonably encourage a belief that she could, within a reasonable time, assume a responsible position in the child’s life. In its decision, the court detailed each of the specific steps that Mother had failed to follow and the corresponding facts that supported its determination that DCF had proven that Mother failed to rehabilitate, namely, her failure to fully comply with the specific steps, her inappropriate behavior during her visitations, and her failure to engage in appropriate mental health treatment to develop an understanding of the child’s needs, in particular, the impact of an unsafe environment on his mental health.
  3. The trial court’s determination that TPR was in the child’s best interest was factually supported and legally sound. The trial court made findings relating to each of the 7 factors set forth in § 17a-112 (k) before making its determination on the basis of the totality of the circumstances.  Moreover, in its decision, the trial court emphasized that A had been living in his foster care placement for 5 years, was thriving there, and was very attached to his foster family.  It explicitly stated that it balanced the child’s need for stability and permanency against the potential benefit of maintaining a connection with Mother, and it noted that the child’s counsel and GAL both recommended TPR.  Furthermore, although there was some evidence that Mother and the child loved each other, such evidence was insufficient for this court to conclude that the trial court improperly determined that it was in the child’s best interest to terminate Mother’s parental rights.