Christina V., In re, 13869

Decision Date20 June 1995
Docket NumberNo. 13869,13869
Citation38 Conn.App. 214,660 A.2d 863
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals
PartiesIn re CHRISTINA V. et al. *

Bessye W. Bennett, for the appellant (respondent).

Dennis Antonacci, Asst. Atty. Gen., with whom were Benjamin Zivyon, Asst. Atty. Gen., and, on the brief, Richard Blumenthal, Atty. Gen., and Susan T. Pearlman, for the appellee (petitioner).

Jamey Bell, with whom, on the brief, was Judith Rozie-Battle, for the minor children.

Before DUPONT, C.J., and FOTI and LAVERY, JJ.

LAVERY, Judge.

The respondent mother appeals from the judgment of the trial court granting termination petitions filed by the department of children and families (DCF) with respect to her two youngest children. The respondent claims that the trial court (1) failed to determine the validity of the grounds alleged in the petition, (2) failed to admit evidence of DCF's bias and of its failure to offer timely assistance of reunification to respondent, (3) could not have found the evidence to be clear and convincing on the adjudication of termination, and (4) did not correctly analyze and apply the seven factors listed in General Statutes § 17a-112(d). We disagree and affirm the trial court's judgment.

The trial court found the following facts. The children for whom the petitions were filed are Christina, who was eleven years old at the time of trial and Patrick, who was five years old at the time of trial. The respondent has two other children in foster care and they are not involved in this case.

The respondent has been referred to DCF protective services since 1986. From 1986 to 1990, numerous referrals were made to DCF alleging the respondent's inability to provide a safe, nurturing and permanent environment for herself and her three children. During this period, the referrals claimed that she failed to pay rent and needed to be relocated with her children; she lived periodically in emergency shelters; she was offered services by DCF which she failed to pursue; she was offered services for counseling and evaluation of her children; and she physically and emotionally neglected her children. Home visits indicated there was little food in the house and the children were dirty. The respondent maintained poor housekeeping standards and there was evidence of drug and alcohol use. In 1989, the respondent agreed to enter a detoxification program but failed to do so.

In early 1990, the respondent's physical care and supervision of her children deteriorated. A social worker reported that the children were poorly dressed and were dirty. The respondent's apartment was found to be dirty, cluttered and contained minimal furniture. The older children were frequently truant from school. DCF arranged for the delivery of furniture and household items and services for the care of the children. In April, 1990, a school social worker reported one of the children truant from school for seventy-two days.

In July, 1990, the Hartford police department responded to neighbors' complaints that the older children were missing from the respondent's home. The police officer found the respondent passed out in an intoxicated state; her sixteen month old child, Patrick, was observed crying on the floor in one of the rooms. The respondent was unable to determine the whereabouts of her children. She was arrested and charged with four counts of risk of injury to children and transported to the Morgan Street detention center. The police indicated that the apartment in which the children resided was filthy, cluttered, had a foul odor and contained little food. The small amount of food they found was not edible, empty liquor and wine bottles were scattered about and the odor of cat feces was very prominent. The children were placed on a ninety-six hour hold. The children's foster mother testified during the trial that, when the children first came to her in 1990, sixteen month old Patrick was covered with sores and was clinging to his sister Christina. The children were hungry, ate from garbage cans and hid food. Christina stuttered, used profanity, was very guarded in her conduct and very protective of her younger brother.

The respondent signed an agreement for voluntary placement of the children on July 17, 1990, while she was at the Niantic correctional center for women. DCF subsequently filed a neglect petition that was adjudicated on March 21, 1991, in favor of the petitioner. DCF characterized the respondent as an emotionally overwhelmed, multiproblemed woman who has been resistant to DCF's intervention and assistance since 1987.

During the course of time that this matter was under the supervision of the DCF and in the juvenile court, there were five psychological evaluations conducted by David M. Mantell, a court-appointed clinical psychologist, to evaluate the respondent and her children. Each evaluation was thorough and, after each evaluation, reports were rendered and filed with the court on February 4, 1991, June 25, 1992, August 10, 1992, February 26, 1994, and April 15, 1994.

Mantell described the respondent as a "physically healthy appearing self-supporting, thirty-four year old woman with a history of alcohol and drug abuse, in remission, who is probably chronically depressed, at least to a mild to moderate degree, and with inadequate personality characteristics and with inadequate parental motivation." The fifth evaluation concluded as follows: "Although [the respondent] apparently has intensified the frequency of her contacts with her children during the past year, she remains, however, a psychologically inadequate, unreliable person who is apparently unrehabilitated. She acknowledges that she is unable to provide her children with a home at this time. Her future plans in that regard are vague. She does not have the psychological wherewithal to complete a psychological examination, still presenting in a psychologically marginal fashion with strongly inadequate personality characteristics, lack of judgment and insight, and stronger priorities which preclude an active, meaningful involvement in her children's lives. She is essentially out of touch with her children, knowing very little about them, engaging them peripherally, attempting primarily to keep their relationship alive through her unpredictable visitation pattern and her promises about an unspecific, reunified future. Understandably, her children's primary attachments are with their foster families. The mother has been allowed an unusually long time to engage in rehabilitation. Her failure to do so in combination with the pattern of her contacts with her children is seen as a disruptive and disabling force in their lives interfering with their general adjustment as well as their attachment capacities. For these reasons, I find that there is more than ample reason psychologically to support the legal termination of the mother's parental rights in order to maximize the children's best interest."

The respondent argued against termination representing that she had been able to maintain a job as an aide for three years at a convalescent home and she further argued that within the last year she has increased her visits with the children. The court found the visits had increased in frequency in the last year, but were usually five to ten minutes in duration, were unannounced, and were usually outside the home of the foster mother. The foster mother had never prevented these visits and on a recent occasion the respondent brought with her a friend who, she announced to Patrick and Christina, would soon be their new daddy. This announcement had a deleterious affect on Christina's conduct.

The trial court found that the respondent does not know the most fundamental information about her children. She does not know their heights, weights, schools, teachers or friends. Nonetheless, during her random visits she promises reunification without any realistic understanding of the children's physical, intellectual, emotional, social and moral needs.

The trial court credited the respondent for her personal rehabilitation in maintaining employment and remaining substance free but found that she did not rehabilitate herself as required by statute to a responsible position in the life of her children. The trial court found on the basis of the respondent's testimony and the findings of Mantell that the respondent lacked the appropriate judgment, insight and understanding of her children's needs to act effectively as their full-time parent and, because of the length of time that the children were in foster care, she would not be able to rehabilitate herself to a meaningful role in her children's lives.

The respondent's first and third claims are essentially the same and go to the question of sufficiency of the evidence at trial to support the trial court's finding that the adjudicatory petition proved, by clear and convincing evidence, the ground for termination. The respondent claims that the trial court improperly found that she had failed to achieve such a degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that within a reasonable period of time she could assume a responsible position with respect to the care of her children. General Statutes § 17a-112(b)(2). 1

" ' "On appeal, our function is to determine whether the trial court's conclusion was legally correct and factually supported." In re Michael M., [29 Conn.App. 112, 121, 614 A.2d 832 (1992) ]; In re Megan M., 24 Conn.App. 338, 342, 588 A.2d 239 (1991); In re Davon M., 16 Conn.App. 693, 696, 548 A.2d 1350 (1988). We do not examine the record to determine whether the trier of fact could have reached a conclusion other than the one reached; Pandolphe's Auto Parts, Inc. v. Manchester, 181 Conn. 217, 222, 435 A.2d 24 (1980); nor do we retry the case or pass upon the credibility of the witnesses. In re Christine F., 6 Conn.App. 360, 366-67, 505 A.2d 734, cert. denied, 199 Conn. 808,...

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