June 6, 2023

May 2023

Mother appealed the termination of her parental rights, claiming that the trial court erroneously concluded, inter alia, that she was unable or unwilling to benefit from the reunification services offered to her by DCF, and that she failed to achieve a sufficient degree of personal rehabilitation. The children, who had previously been committed to DCF, had complex needs, having been diagnosed with, inter alia, ADHD and PTSD, which DCF provided services to address and support.  The Appeals Court here held:

1. Mother could not prevail on her claim that the trial court improperly concluded that DCF made reasonable efforts to reunify and that she was unable or unwilling to benefit from such reunification efforts.  Contrary to Mother’s claim that DCF’s services were inadequate to assist her to meet the complex needs of her children, and that without adequate services, she was unwilling or unable to benefit from such services, the trial court’s uncontested subordinate findings established that DCF took various steps to facilitate reunification before it sought to terminate Mother’s parental rights, including referring her to several parenting education and supervision programs.  DCF’s case worker testified as to Mother’s struggles with accountability for her actions and her difficulties accepting her children’s special needs.  Furthermore, the record reflected the report of the court-appointed psychological evaluator, who noted that Mother did not incorporate the information learned from the parenting education programs into her behavior when interacting with the children, did not reach out to her children’s service providers to further understand their special needs, and was resistant to making changes, particularly as to her parenting style.

2. The trial court properly concluded that Mother failed to achieve the requisite degree of personal rehabilitation, as required by § 17a-112 (j) (3) (B) (ii), to reasonably encourage the belief that, within a reasonable time, considering the ages and needs of the children, she could assume a responsible position in the children’s lives.  Contrary to her claim that she failed to acquire the knowledge necessary to care for the children because the services that DCF provided her were not adequate given the children’s special needs, the Court here found that the record contained sufficient evidence to support the findings that DCF had proven that Mother failed to rehabilitate, given the ages and needs of the children.  Although she participated in numerous parenting programs aimed to improve her skills as a parent given the special needs of the children, she failed to benefit from such services: DCF’s case worker testified that she was not receptive to the children’s special needs and had not contacted their service providers to better understand those needs.  Further, the court-appointed psychological evaluator testified that Mother had difficulty addressing her own mental health needs, mistrusted service providers, which prevented her from making significant progress in learning from the services provided to her, did not believe in her children’s diagnoses, and was not familiar with the diagnoses or the services her children received.