March 3, 2017

171 Conn.App. 568 (2017)

3 Mar. 2017

Termination of Parental Rights, Personal Rehabilitation

The Appellate Court held that evidence supported finding that father failed to achieve such degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that, within a reasonable time, father could assume a responsible position in the life of child. Affirmed.

The respondent father, Carlos Q., appealed from the judgment terminating his parental rights to his daughter, Harmony Q. Specifically, he claimed that the court improperly concluded that (1) he had failed to achieve a sufficient degree of personal rehabilitation, and (2) termination of his parental rights was in the best interest of the child. The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s judgement.

The respondent was arrested for the illegal possession of a firearm in 2013, a month before Harmony’s birth. He had been arrested nine other times between 2009 and 2013. Harmony’s mother was arrested and charged with several drug-related offenses less than three months after her birth. Harmony was placed with her mother’s cousin. The respondent was then released and given court-ordered specific steps to facilitate the return of Harmony to his care, but he failed to comply with them. Harmony was adjudicated neglected and placed in DCF care in March of 2014. The respondent was then sentenced to two years of incarceration.

Harmony was returned to her mother for four and one-half months, between August 2014 and January 2015, when she was arrested a second time for a narcotics charge. She then returned to her mother’s cousin’s house and visited her mother and father in prison. In November 2015, the court approved a permanency plan of termination of parental rights and adoption.

The respondent participated in various programs while incarcerated, and upon his release gained employment and his own apartment. He was again ordered to complete specific steps with local providers, but did not believe he needed additional services. He missed several visits with Harmony and often left the visits after one hour without explanation.

At the March 2016 trial on the termination of the respondent’s parental rights, his social worker Ama Tandoh testified that he had attended some programs but that Harmony had established a bond with her maternal relatives and considered them her parents. The cousin, Juan N., testified that he and his wife would adopt Harmony if given the opportunity. The trial court found that the respondent had failed to rehabilitate under § 17a-112(j)(3)(B)(i), and that he was unable or unwilling to benefit from the department’s reasonable efforts to reunify Harmony with him. It held that termination was in Harmony’s best interest. The Appellate Court concluded that neither of these findings were clearly erroneous, and therefore affirmed the trial court’s ruling.