August 6, 2018

In re Joheli V. – 184 Conn. App. 259 (2018) – August
Failure to Rehabilitate

In August 2015, DCF filed a neglect petition, alleging that Joheli, who had cerebral palsy and was confined to a wheelchair, was living in conditions injurious to her well-being.  In September, she was adjudicated neglected and the court ordered 6 months of protective supervision, with father to comply with several specific steps to retain custody. 

In November 2015, Joheli reported that she had been sexually assaulted by her father, and DCF placed her with her cousin.  Specific steps were again ordered.  Joheli was committed to the care and custody of DCF in January 2016; the court again issued specific steps to father.  In April 2016, father was arrested for sexual assault, and was incarcerated for the duration of the case, awaiting trial. 

In March 2017, DCF filed a TPR petition, alleging that reasonable efforts had been made, but that father was unable or unwilling to benefit from them, and had failed to achieve the necessary degree of personal rehabilitation, i.e. he had a history of unaddressed mental health needs, substance abuse issues, pending allegations of sexual assault, and failed to demonstrate the ability to meet his child’s daily needs.  Additionally, he had participated in both individual & group therapy with little benefit or change.  Given that father could not meet his own basic needs, DCF alleged that he would be unable to properly care for Joheli, who had medically complex issues requiring an adequate caregiver.  In August 2017, DCF amended the petition to include the allegation that there was no ongoing parent-child relationship.

In November 2017, the court terminated father’s parental rights following trial.  It found that DCF made reasonable efforts to reunify, but that he did not seize upon them to improve his situation.  It found that he failed to achieve such a degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that within a reasonable time, considering the age and needs of child, that he could assume a responsible position in her life.  It made no findings as to their lack of ongoing relationship, but did find that father was incarcerated and that Joheli was experiencing trauma due to her relationship with him. 

Father appealed, based on his claim that the court erred in basing its determination solely upon his current incarceration for alleged sexual assault of his child. The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s decision, finding that there was no merit to father’s claim, and that he had misconstrued the decision.  Although the court had considered father’s incarceration, which it was entitled to do, it did not base its determination that he failed to rehabilitate solely on that ground.  Rather, it was one of many factors considered by the court, as it determined that his efforts to rehabilitate were scant even before his arrest; those findings were all amply supported in the record.