In re Anthony A.

106 Conn. App. 389

Connecticut Appellate Court

March, 2008


In this interesting neglect appeal, the respondent mother argued that despite her significant psychiatric problems, her newborn son should not have been adjudicated neglected because at the time the neglect petition was filed the baby was living with the maternal grandparents.

The mother, who had a history of psychiatric issues, stopped taking medication for her psychiatric disorder when she discovered she was pregnant with her son. The night before his birth, the mother apparently suffered a psychotic episode and locked herself in a bathroom at her parents’ home. She was violent and required restraint. She was taken to the hospital where she gave birth. A psychiatrist who evaluated her on March 1, 2006, the day of the child’s birth, found she was not psychotic but recommended she resume medication. The respondent refused. On March 3, 2006, an investigative social worker from the Department of Children and Families visited the mother in the hospital and worked with the child’s grandmother, a DCF employee, to develop a care plan for mother and child which relied on supervision of both by mother’s parents. Mother reportedly refused the plan. A psychiatrist evaluating the respondent mother the same day found she was psychotic and issued an emergency commitment order hospitalizing mother for up to 15 days. The child was taken into DCF custody on a 96-hour hold. Ultimately, the trial court adjudicated the baby neglected by virtue of being denied proper care and attention.

On appeal, the mother argued that on March 3, 2006, the child was not neglected given that he was placed with his grandparents. The appellate court rejected this argument, upholding the trial court’s conclusion that the grandparents could neither prevent nor control the mother’s psychotic episodes, and there was nothing to stop the mother from returning to their home when her emergency psychiatric commitment expired. DCF, therefore had a legitimate concern for the child’s safety. The appellate court further noted that both respondent and the child’s father were institutionalized on the date in question (father was incarcerated) and therefore there was no one with legal authority to care for the child.

This case raises questions about informal relative care arrangements used in many families. The appellate court appears to reject the argument that a true arrangement for care of the child existed, noting that mother had not agreed to the plan. However, the court’s unwillingness to credit the arrangement is interesting, given that DCF, through its investigative social worker, had endorsed supervision by the child’s grandparents in the care plan it developed the same day as the 96-hour hold was invoked. Another important aspect of the decision is the discussion of the possibility for harm if the respondent mother were released from the hospital. This look somewhat like the accepted doctrine of predictive neglect, but is interesting in that it relies on a series of assumptions: that mother would be released, that she would go to her parents’ home and take her child; that even after psychiatric treatment, she would not permit her own parents to supervise care of her child as DCF had previously endorsed.

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