In re Brendan C.

Connecticut Appellate Court

89 Conn. App. 512 (2005)

June 14, 2005

 

In this case, the parents of Brendan C., an eight year old with special needs, challenged the termination of their parental rights by the court. The crux of the father’s claim was that his parental rights had been improperly terminated solely because of his mental deficiencies, rather than his inability to parent. The court record stated that the father’s parental rights were terminated based on his history of aggressive behavior, problems in his marriage, problems in his son’s behavior that seemed to be exacerbated by his relationship with the father, and what the court described as the father’s inability to recognize or to meet his child’s needs. The father appealed this decision. In doing so, he suggested that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) should have provided him with special assistance and accommodations because of this mental condition. The father’s claims ultimately failed because he was not able to demonstrate sufficient evidence of mental incapacity warranting such special accommodations.

In the appeal, both parents contended that the court should have appointed a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to advocate to advocate on the child’s behalf for reunification with the parents, which they felt was in their son’s best interest. The parents were not successful in convincing the court that reunification truly was in the best interest of this child and they lacked sufficient evidence that the child actually wanted to live with them, therefore the court did not see a compelling reason to appoint a GAL for the child. Additionally, since the court found clear and convincing evidence that termination of parental rights was in the best interest of the child, the appointment of a GAL whose role it is to advocate for what is in the best interest of the child, would not have affected the outcome of the case. The child’s father also contended that due to his diminished mental capacity, the court should have appointed a GAL to advocate on his behalf and that not doing so was in violation of his due process rights. However, the father did not meet his burden of demonstrating a level of incapacitation that would warrant special accommodations such as appointment of a GAL.

In addition, the father claimed that the DCF failed to make reasonable efforts to reunify the family. DCF’s reunification efforts included referral to a family reunification center where the parents received couples counseling, individual counseling sessions and parenting classes. A series of supervised visits between the child and his parents were also conducted while the child remained in the custody of foster parents. The court determined that these efforts by DCF met applicable requirements under the termination statutes (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-112), and emphasized that the standard is “reasonable” efforts, rather than every possible effort. The father also contended that DCF failed to make reasonable accommodations pursuant to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) in the provision of reunification services. It is unclear whether this claim would have been successful even if the father was able to demonstrate that he had a disability that qualified under the ADA. Based on precedent, the court, not having recognized any special obligation created by the ADA for termination proceedings, would still be likely to apply the reasonable efforts test in accordance with the state’s termination statutes.

The court also rejected the father’s contention that his constitutional substantive due process and equal protection rights had been violated because they were not properly raised at trial, nor was it clear that such violations clearly existed depriving him of a fair trial. Thus, the decision to terminate parental rights in this case was upheld.

This case may be accessed by going to the state Judicial Branch website atwww.jud.state.ct.us/external/supapp/Cases/AROap/AP89/89AP313.pdf

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