In re Claudia F.

Connecticut Appellate Court

93 Conn. App. 343 (2006)

January 24, 2006

 

The question of mootness once again confronted the Appellate Court in Claudia F. and the court answered in a resounding fashion by determining that a respondent mother’s voluntary termination of her parental rights rendered an appeal of a neglect adjudication moot. The case, however, is interesting in that it features an interesting sidebar as to whether an underling finding of neglect, followed by a voluntary termination of parental rights, results in damaging consequences to an individual who is thereby placed on the state’s child abuse registry pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-101k.

In October 2003, the Department of Children and Families (“Department”) filed neglect petitions on behalf of the respondent mother’s three minor children. In February 2004, the trial court sustained an Order of Temporary Custody, and the respondent did not appeal that judgment. In May 2004, the court issued a decision adjudicating the children neglected and committed them to the Department. The respondent filed an appeal from that decision in July, but then consented to termination of her parental rights in November 2004.

The question for the appellate court was whether during the pendency of the appeal, her consent to termination of parental rights rendered her appeal moot. The respondent mother argued that despite the appearance that no controversy existed to appeal, the court should retain jurisdiction because of the collateral consequences that stems from the neglect adjudication. Her claim rested on the notion that as a result of the underlying finding of neglect, it was reasonably likely that she would be listed on the state’s child abuse registry. She further contended that inclusion on the registry is stigmatizing, that her records could be obtained by a state agency, and that ultimately such information could enter the public domain. To this extent, the respondent relied heavily on the case of Williams v. Ragalia, 261 Conn. 219 (2002).

The court found this argument unpersuasive. First, the court opined that the judgment of neglect was not directed at the respondent as a parent, but at the condition of the children. Second, the respondent’s concerns about dissemination of the Department’s records would not be remedied by an appeal of the neglect finding, because the Department’s records of the respondent’s conduct (i.e. medical neglect, domestic violence, mental health issues) would still be in the records because the respondent did not appeal from the temporary custody order. In addition, the court distinguished this case from the recent Supreme Court case of Allison G., 276 Conn. 146 (2005), which revolved around parents’ admitting to a finding that a child had been “uncared for,” but not that she had been subjected to sexual abuse because of their neglect.

The case may be found at the Judicial Branch website by going to http://jud.ct.gov/external/supapp/Cases/AROap/AP93/93AP152.pdf .

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