May 29, 2022

In Re Rabia K. (AC 45012)

May 2022

Mother, whose child was adjudicated neglected and committed to DCF, appealed based on a claim that the court improperly found that the child had been neglected, and that DCF had made reasonable efforts to prevent her removal.

After Mother had filed the present appeal, child’s counsel filed a motion to revoke commitment in the trial court, on the basis that the child had returned home to Mother, who had moved to Massachusetts, and no longer wanted to be in DCF custody. The trial court thereafter granted the motion to revoke commitment and closed the case, returning the child to Mother’s care and custody. Subsequently, DCF moved to dismiss this appeal as moot, claiming that this court could not afford Mother any practical relief in light of the trial court’s order revoking commitment. In her opposition, Mother acknowledged that the second issue on appeal, the child’s commitment to DCF, had been rendered moot, but claimed that the first issue, the adjudication of neglect, was not moot because Mother could experience collateral consequences in Massachusetts as a result thereof: the adjudication of neglect could be used against her in a future child protection proceeding in Massachusetts to establish a pattern of repeated parental neglect. DCF responded that there was no reasonable possibility that prejudicial consequences would occur for Mother as a result thereof, because R no longer lived in Connecticut, would soon reach the age of majority, and the juvenile court would lose jurisdiction over her at that time.

The Appeals Court held here that Mother’s appeal was dismissed as moot, there being no practical relief that the Court could afford Mother on the issue of adjudication of neglect, given that the underlying case had been closed and the child had been returned to the care and custody of Mother.  Nevertheless, it held that vacatur of the trial court’s judgment was appropriate in order to avoid the possibility, however remote, of collateral consequences to the mother in Massachusetts, where the adjudication of neglect was adverse to Mother, Mother did not cause the appeal to be moot through any voluntary action, and she was prevented from challenging the court’s adjudication of neglect as a result of the trial court’s subsequent granting the motion to revoke commitment.  The appeal was thus dismissed, and the judgment vacated.