October 23, 2023

AC 46217

Mother appealed the termination of her parental rights on the ground that she had failed to achieve a sufficient degree of personal rehabilitation pursuant to statute (§ 17a-112). Mother had a history of substance use and mental health issues, and, at the time of trial, the children had not visited with her for more than three years. The children lived with the grandmother, who was committed to serve as a long-term resource for them. After DCF filed TPR petitions, Mother filed a motion to transfer permanent legal guardianship to the grandmother. The trial court, having found by clear and convincing evidence that PTOG was not in the children’s best interests because it was not as permanent an option an adoption, and that adoption was possible and appropriate, granted the TPR petitions and denied the motion to transfer permanent legal guardianship to the grandmother.

The Court here held that Mother could not prevail on her unpreserved claim that the trial court violated her right to substantive due process, as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, by terminating her parental rights as to the minor children without making a finding that termination was the least restrictive means by which DCF could achieve its compelling interest in protecting the safety of the children.  Even if the Court here assumed, without deciding, that Mother’s right to substantive due process required the court to make a ‘‘least restrictive’’ determination, on the basis of the record in the present case, Mother’s claim failed under the third prong of State v. Golding (213 Conn. 233), because it was evident that the trial court considered, but rejected, the PTOG to the grandmother as a less restrictive disposition.  Given the significant needs of the children and Mother’s various shortcomings as found by the court, which findings Mother did not dispute, the record established that the court determined that nothing short of TPR would adequately protect the children’s best interests.