January 13, 2009
TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS/ STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION: FAILURE TO REHABILITATE:
This case involves an appeal from the trial court’s order terminating the parental rights of the respondent mother and father with respect to their daughter, Janazia. On appeal, the respondent father alleged that the trial court improperly denied his motion to revoke commitment and transfer guardianship to the respondent mother. The mother made several claims on appeal, including that she was deprived of her constitutional rights when the trial court (1) refused to let her submit to a drug test and reopen the trial record in the future when her results became available; (2) improperly concluded that she had failed to rehabilitate; and (3) impermissibly considered the best interests of the child as part of its failure to rehabilitate analysis. Both parents alleged that the trial court’s finding that termination was in the best interests of their daughter was clearly erroneous.
In affirming the judgment of the trial court, the appellate court quickly dismissed the father’s claim that the lower court had improperly denied his motion to revoke commitment and transfer guardianship, noting that the respondent mother was not a viable placement option and that commitment was in the best interests of Janazia. Specifically, the court pointed out the mother’s history of unaddressed substance abuse, unstable housing, lack of viable employment prospects, inconsistent compliance with court-ordered specific steps, and lack of appropriate parenting skills as evidence of the child’s need for commitment.
The appellate court also denied the mother’s claim that her constitutional rights had been violated when the court refused to reopen the trial record in order to permit her to submit to a drug test at some distant and unknown date in the future. The appellate court found no constitutional violation, noting that the mother had ample opportunity to submit to a drug test before trial, and that the outcome of the drug test would be damaging either way: if positive, it proved she was still using; if negative, it proved she failed to “comprehend the positive import of a negative hair test.” Moreover, the inevitable delay in scheduling and submitting the results of a drug test would likely deny the child the permanency she desperately needed.
The appellate court then rejected the mother’s factual and legal challenges to the trial court’s finding that she had failed to rehabilitate. The respondent contended that the trial court (1) misconstrued the statutory definition of personal rehabilitation because it viewed the mother’s reliance on outside support systems as evidence of her lack of rehabilitation; and (2) improperly considered the child’s best interests when finding the respondent had failed to rehabilitate. Though the appellate court agreed that the definition of personal rehabilitation “allows a parent to include the use of support systems,” it noted that the trial court’s decision was sensitive to these supports, and had nonetheless found that despite outside assistance the respondent could not rehabilitate within a reasonable period of time. Citing the language of CGS § 17a-112(j)(3)(B)(i), the court then noted that whether a parent has achieved a sufficient degree of personal rehabilitation must be considered in light of “the age and needs of the child.” Thus, the trial court’s consideration of the emotional and psychological needs of the child was appropriate in its decision on whether the respondent had rehabilitated herself.
Finally, the appellate court rejected the respondents’ claim that termination was not in the best interests of Janazia, noting that the court’s conclusions were supported by the trial record and reiterating that appellate review was limited to reviewing, and not retrying, the proceedings of a trial court.
The case may be accessed by going to the Judicial Branch website athttp://www.jud.state.ct.us/external/supapp/Cases/AROap/AP112/112AP105.pdf
Filed in Tags: Abuse and Neglect
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