Connecticut Appellate Court
October 26, 2010
TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS/INCARCERATED PARENT
The respondent father claimed that the trial court erreoneously found that he was “unwilling or unable to benefit from reunification services” due solely to the father’s status as an incarcerated individual. The appellate court agreed that while incarceration alone could not result in a decision to terminate parental rights, “incarceration nonetheless may prove an obstacle to reunification due to the parent’s unavailability.”
While the father asked for and received visits with his child while incarcerated in Hartford, when he was moved to a prison in Rhode Island he did not put the Department on his contact list and did not return calls or respond to letters from the Department. Nor did he respond to the Department’s efforts to contact him when he was placed in a facility in New York. Subsequently the respondent participated telephonically in a treatment plan conference with DCF, and he informed the Department that he was being transferred to a federal prison in Maryland where he would be participating in substance abuse treatment and parenting classes. He also registered his disagreement with the Department’s proposed permanency plan of termination of parental rights.
The appellate court looked to In re Juvenile Appeal, 187 Conn. 443, for the finding that incarceration alone cannot give rise to termination of parental rights based on “abandonment.” However, the Supreme Court also stated in that case that, “On the other hand, the inevitable restraints imposed by incarceration do not in themselves excuse a failure to make use of available though limited resources for contact with a distant child.’’
The appellate court noted that the “‘inevitable restraints’’ imposed by incarceration are directly applicable to the facts of this case, in which the respondent was ordered to take advantage of services for substance abuse, drug testing and improved parenting skills. In addition, the respondent’s failure to keep department personnel apprised of his whereabouts and his failure to communicate through relatives, counselors or the telephone until 2009, supports the court’s finding that the respondent was unwilling or unable to benefit from reunification services.”
The court also affirmed the finding that the father had failed to rehabilitate largely due the same evidence of the father’s incarceration, history of substance abuse and failure to avail himself of any available services until the “eleventh hour.” Additionally, the court observed that the father had been incarcerated the entire life of the child and the child had been in a stable pre-adoptive home for over two years.
Filed in Tags: Abuse and Neglect
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