July 6, 2018

In re Katherine H.

Connecticut Appellate Court

183 Conn. App. 320 (2018)

July 6, 2018

Standard of Review for Factual Findings, Neglect, Order of Temporary Custody/Commitment

This case is an appeal by the respondent mother from the trial court’s adjudication of neglect of her minor children and commitment of the children to the custody of the Commissioner of Children and Families. The trial court found that the mother had experienced episodic psychotic delusional thinking, that these conditions were injurious to the children living under them, and that the children, as a result of these conditions, were denied proper care and attention, physically, educationally, emotionally or morally.

The trial court’s factual findings were the primary issue on appeal. In coming to its decision, the Appellate Court described key factual findings about the mother’s mental health and the Department’s involvement with her. The Department began its involvement with the mother after a clinician reported in November 2015 that the mother presented a risk of harm to her two children due to the mother’s psychotic thoughts, delusional thinking, and consumption of large quantities of wine. At the time of the call, the mother worked for Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation, but about six months later, her employer found her unfit for duty and referred her for a psychiatric evaluation. From November 2015-November 2016, the Department sought to have a psychiatric evaluation done on the mother, to have her enter psychotherapy, and to have her comply with medication management. These efforts were unsuccessful, and the mother did not acknowledge having mental health issues or needing help.

Based on the trial court’s factual findings about the Department’s efforts and the findings and the recommendations of therapeutic providers regarding the mother’s delusional thinking, alcohol consumption, and risk she posed to the children, in the hearing on the motions for temporary custody, the trial court found the children were in immediate physical danger and that removal was necessary to ensure their safety. In the hearing on the neglect petitions, the trial court concluded that living in the presence of actual delusional thinking and acting is itself a condition of negligence.

The Appellate Court noted the standard of review for factual findings is “clearly erroneous.” The court continued, explaining that for a finding of fact to be clearly erroneous, there is no evidence in the record or, when there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court, after reviewing the entire evidence, is left with a “definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.”[1] The Appellate Court found that the mother failed to demonstrate that the trial court’s findings were clearly erroneous and affirmed the trial court’s judgments on neglect and commitment to the Commissioner of Children and Families.

This case may be accessed by going to Judicial Branch website at https://www.jud.ct.gov/lawjournal/Docs/Appellate/2018/29/ap183_8003.pdf

[1] In re Michael L., 56 Conn. App. 688, 692-93.