May 1, 2023

In re Isabella Q. (AC 45551)

February 2023

Failure to Benefit from Services; Failure to Rehabilitate

Father appealed the termination of his parental rights. He claimed that the trial court improperly concluded that he was unable/unwilling to benefit from reunification services, that he failed to rehabilitate, and that TPR was in the child’s best interest. The Court here held:

  1. Because Father challenged only 1 of the 2 separate and independent bases for upholding the trial court’s determination that the requirements of § 17a-112 (j) (1) had been satisfied — as he failed to challenge on appeal the court’s finding that DCF had made reasonable efforts to reunify him with the minor child — the Appeals Court did not need to determine whether the trial court implicitly determined that he was unwilling/unable to benefit from DCF’s reunification efforts because there was no practical relief that could be provided, accordingly, Father’s claim was moot.
  2. Contrary to Father’s claim, the trial court correctly concluded that he failed to achieve the requisite degree of personal rehabilitation required by § 17a-112 (j) (3) (B) (i) that would encourage the belief that, within a reasonable time, considering the child’s age and needs, he could assume a responsible position in her life. The court found that Father failed to comply with specific steps to address his mental health and behavioral concerns, including his history of depression and bipolar disorder, his criminal record related to substance abuse, and the multiple past protective orders issued against him to protect the child and Mother due to instances of IPV. Moreover, the court concluded that Father’s engagement with services and visitation with the child was inconsistent and insufficient, as he had not visited with her in more than 2 years, despite his relationship with his sons, the child’s half- brothers.  Evidence sufficiently supported the court’s conclusion that there was clear and convincing evidence that Father failed to achieve a sufficient degree of rehabilitation.
  3. Father’s claim that the court improperly concluded that TPR was in the child’s best interest was unavailing. The court’s judgment was well supported by its written findings on each of the seven factors set forth in § 17a-112 (k), as well as the child’s needs, including her need for stability and permanency. The child had been in DCF care for approximately 3.5 years in a relative foster home, had a strong attachment to her foster parents, with whom she wanted to remain and who expressed a willingness to adopt her, and Father had not demonstrated the ability to stabilize his mental health needs and to provide the child with a safe, stable home environment.