In Re Devon W.

Connecticut Appellate Court

October 26, 2010

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS/FAILURE TO REHABILITATE

MOTHER’S APPEAL: In this termination of parental rights appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s finding that the mother failed to rehabilitate, despite the mother’s demonstration of continued progress with mental health treatment. The appellate court acknowledged that at the time the termination petition was filed, the mother was compliant with mental health treatment and was making progress with her condition. However, the court noted the mother’s long history of serious mental health struggles with psychosis and depression, her history of intermittent cooperation and her lack of any record of caring for her children as sufficient evidence of her failure to rehabilitate to a “sufficient degree” as would encourage the belief that she could assume a responsible position in each child’s life within the foreseeable future.” The appellate court reiterated that in a termination of parental rights case ‘‘[s]uccessful completion of the petitioner’s . . . expectations is not sufficient to defeat the petitioner’s claim that the parent has not achieved sufficient rehabilitation. . . . [I]n assessing rehabilitation, the critical issue is not whether the parent has improved [her] ability to manage [her] own life, but rather whether [she] has gained the ability to care for the particular needs of the [children] at issue. . . . Thus, even if a parent has made successful strides in her ability to manage her life and may have achieved a level of stability within her limitations, such improvements, although commendable, are not dispositive on the issue of whether, within a reasonable period of time, she could assume a responsible position in the life of her children.’’

The court also found the claim that the trial court violated respondent mother’s constitutional rights by granting the termination petition on the sole basis of concerns regarding mother’s mental health was not reviewable. The claim had not been raised at trial and the respondent could not seek review per the Golding standard because the claim was not truly of constitutional magnitude. The appellate court determined that the respondent essentially sought to have the court review the sufficiency of the evidence to terminate parental rights and the court concluded that ‘‘Putting a constitutional tag on a nonconstitutional claim will [not] change its essential nature .”

CHILDREN’S APPEAL: The appellate court also denied the children’s claim that the trial court erroneously found that termination of parental rights was in the children’s best interest. The court noted numerous cases holding that regardless of the “strong bond” between the children and the parents, termination may be still be in the children’s best interests. Furthermore, in this case, the trial court found that the mother could not provide a stable home life as evidenced by the long period of time the children had been in DCF’s care.

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