January 1, 2023

In Re A’vion A. et al. (AC 45357)

January 2023

Mother appealed the termination of her parental rights. She claimed that the trial court improperly denied her motion to compel DCF to provide her with additional reunification services, improperly concluded that she had failed to achieve a requisite degree of personal rehabilitation, and erroneously determined that DCF made reasonable efforts at reunification. The trial court had found that Mother also was unwilling or unable to benefit from reunification efforts. On appeal, the Court here held the following:

  1. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Mother’s motion to compel DCF to provide additional reunification services. It was within the court’s discretion to make decisions relating to its case management authority, and not improper to have based its decision on the fact that the TPR trial had been postponed months earlier and was scheduled to begin in 18 days, more than 2 years after the children had been transferred to DCF custody.  Moreover, because the adequacy of DCF’s efforts would have been an issue at the TPR trial, Mother would have had the opportunity to present argument and evidence at trial refuting DCF’s claims that she was provided with appropriate services, or that she was unwilling or unable to benefit from them.
  2. Mother could not prevail on her claim that the court improperly concluded that she had failed to achieve the requisite degree of personal rehabilitation. Evidence supported the findings that Mother failed to fully comply with key portions of the court-ordered specific steps to facilitate reunification, including that she had refused to participate in certain services for which she had been referred, had rescinded releases with some providers, refused to cooperate with home visits by DCF workers, and failed to properly notify DCF of a change in her household when she gave birth to another child during the TPR proceedings. The court also found that she continued to exhibit inappropriate behaviors during visits, was argumentative and hostile with visitation supervisors, and had not acknowledged personal issues that had led to children’s removal. 
  3. Mother’s claim that the court improperly determined that DCF made reasonable efforts to reunify was moot. Because she did not challenge the court’s finding that she was unable or unwilling to benefit from reunification efforts, there existed a separate independent basis for upholding the court’s determination. Therefore, even if this Court agreed with Mother’s claim, there was no practical relief that could be afforded to her; accordingly, that portion of the appeal was dismissed as moot.