In re Emerald C.

Connecticut Appellate Court

July 1, 2008

 

Termination of Parental Rights/Failure to Rehabilitate

In this split decision, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s determination that the father’s inconsistent compliance with court-ordered and DCF mandated expectations supported a finding that he had failed to rehabilitate. The majority noted the father’s lack of involvement with court ordered services and continued association with the substance-abusing and violent mother of his child. The court also looked to the father’s inconsistent visitation record and the noted detrimental effect of the visitation on his young child. The court rejected the father’s argument that he could not be penalized for continued association with the child’s mother when the court-ordered specific steps did not address this association. The court referenced In re Vincent D., 65 Conn. App. 658 (2001) for the proposition that the court may consider all factors relevant to the rehabilitation issue “regardless of whether those factors were included in specific expectations ordered by the court or imposed by the department.” The dissent agreed that there was sufficient evidence to sustain a finding that the state made reasonable efforts to reunify the father and his child and that termination of parental rights was in the child’s best interests. However, the dissent agreed with the father that there was inadequate support for the trial court’s finding that the father failed to rehabilitate. The court noted that that at the time the father became involved in the case there was little that he need to “rehabilitate” from. He did not abuse substances, he was not violent, he did not suffer from a psychiatric disorder, and he had no criminal record. The court questioned whether the majority was simply changing the meaning of the statutory ground “failure to rehabilitate” to “[gaining] the ability to care for the particular needs of the child at issue.” The dissent acknowledged that the father clearly had limited parent skills but noted again that “this is not a condition from which he had to be rehabilitated.” The dissent observed that other grounds for termination may exist in this case, such as “no ongoing parent/child relationship.” However, the state did not allege any ground other than “failure to rehabilitate,” and the dissent deemed this ground inapplicable to the case.

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