December 21, 2023

AC 46551

Father appealed the termination of his parental rights, where the trial court had found that, although he had complied with some of his court-ordered specific steps, he persistently refused to cooperate with the services recommended by DCF regarding substance abuse and mental health, including failing to participate in a psychiatric evaluation. The court had found that DCF had become concerned about Father’s substance use after several instances had occurred in which he appeared impaired. DCF referred him for a mental health evaluation and medication management with a specific provider, but Father never engaged with them. Father advised DCF that he had been treating with a different APRN, who managed his medications, and that he did not want to change treatment providers, expressing concern that the provider that DCF wanted him to go to would not prescribe the benzodiazepines that the APRN prescribed.

The Court here held that the trial court properly determined that DCF made reasonable efforts to reunify, that Father was unable or unwilling to benefit from reunification services, and that he failed to achieve such a degree of personal rehabilitation within the meaning of the applicable statute (§ 17a-112) as would encourage the belief that within a reasonable period of time, considering the ages and needs of the children, he could assume a responsible position in their lives. 

In its decision, the Court found that contrary to Father’s claim, DCF did not require him to disengage with his APRN but, rather, recommended that he engage in therapy, which the APRN did not provide, and receive a second opinion in the form of a psychiatric re-evaluation with another provider, to determine if there were additional or different medications that he could be taking.  Moreover, the concern underlying DCF’s recommendation was, as the trial court found, that Father had failed to acknowledge and address his issues of substance use and mental health, which were his primary barriers to reunification.  He refused to cooperate with DCF-recommended services, including not only the psychiatric re-evaluation but also therapy to learn coping skills to address anxiety and distress tolerance, rather than relying solely on medication.  Father’s failure to comply with these crucial elements of his specific steps were particularly concerning given the numerous reports of his presenting as impaired. 

Furthermore, the trial court found that Father was not credible with respect to many aspects of his testimony, particularly his claimed lack of knowledge of DCF’s recommendations regarding therapy; his contention that he, in fact, had attended therapy; and his explanations surrounding his positive test results for fentanyl.  Accordingly, having rejected Father’s claim that DCF required him to disengage from his medical provider and having reviewed the record before it, the Court here concluded that the cumulative effect of the evidence was sufficient to justify the trial court’s conclusions.