In re Anna Lee M

Appellate Court

October 2, 2007

In this termination of parental rights appeal, the mother claimed that the trial court erroneously relied on several pieces of inadmissible evidence to support its finding that she “failed to rehabilitate.” Additionally, the mother asserted that the court’s findings that she failed to rehabilitate and that termination was in the best interests of her children were clearly erroneous.

The mother made several evidentiary claims on appeal. First, she claimed that the court’s reliance on the DCF social study was improper after it sustained the mother’s objections to a social worker’s testimony regarding the social study. The appellate court noted that, despite the mother’s objections to the social worker’s testimony, the social study itself was admitted into evidence as a full exhibit, without objection, and therefore could be relied on by the trial court in toto. Second, the mother challenged the court’s reliance on evidence of two prior arrests, claiming that such reliance was inappropriate in that neither arrest resulted in conviction. The appellate court, citing In re Helen B., 50 Conn. App. 818, 827-31 (1998), held that the arrests were admissible and relevant to the mother’s ability to provide a safe and secure home for her children. The court did not rely on the evidence to determine whether the respondent had committed a crime. Third, the mother agued that the trial court impermissibly allowed the state to cross-examine her on issues that were not raised during direct examination. The appellate court concluded that the state’s questions regarding the mother’s violent relationship with her former husband were permissible because the mother testified on direct examination that she attended a domestic violence counseling session. The appellate court also held that the state’s questions regarding the mother’s fundraising efforts and false claims of cancer were appropriate because such questions were relevant to the mother’s credibility.

The mother also challenged the merits of the court’s adjudication. She claimed that DCF failed to make reasonable efforts to reunify her family when it allowed visitation to be aborted after a visitation center concluded that visits were inappropriate and should be stopped. The appellate court concluded that DCF did not have a “duty” to seek alternate supervisory assistance for the mother.

Finally, the appellate court upheld the trial court’s finding that the mother failed to rehabilitate. The record contained evidence that the mother failed to comply fully with the court ordered specific steps. She did not fully complete her parenting education; she was arrested for social security fraud; she did not advise the department of changes in the composition of her household; she did not visit as often as the department permitted; and she refused to cooperate with the visitation center’s rules and expectations.

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