In re Madison M., H14CP15011580A

Decision Date07 February 2018
Docket NumberH14CP15011581A,H14CP15011582A,H14CP15011580A
CourtConnecticut Superior Court
PartiesIn re Madison M.[1] In re Deanna S.; In re Emma Grace S.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Judge (with first initial, no space for Sullivan, Dorsey, and Walsh): Frazzini, Stephen F., J.T.R.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

STEPHEN F. FRAZZINI JUDGE TRIAL REFEREE

On April 27, 2017, the Commissioner of Children and Families (commissioner) filed petitions under General Statutes § 17a-112 seeking to terminate the parental rights (TPR) of Donald S.[2] to the three children named above.[3] The petitions alleged that the respondent father has failed to rehabilitate, pursuant to § 17a-112(j)(3)(B)(i), and that the minor children have been denied, by acts of commission or omission on his part, the care, guidance or control necessary for their physical educational, moral or emotional well-being, pursuant to § 17a-112(j)(3)(C).[4] Mr. S. appeared on the initial hearing date for the petitions, was advised of his rights and appointed counsel, and entered denials to the allegations of the petitions.

Trial began on October 24, 2017, and continued for one additional day. Mr. S. appeared with his attorney, and before trial began he was advised in accordance with In re Yasiel R., 317 Conn. 773, 794, 120 A.3d 1188 (2015). The court also notified the parties that, pursuant to § 2-1 of the Connecticut Code of Evidence, it would take judicial notice of the contents of the court file, including memoranda of hearings and court orders, involving these children except that factual assertions contained in pleadings, motions, or other documents filed by the parties would be taken as substantively true only if independent evidence thereof was introduced and found credible in this proceeding or was subject to the finality principles of res judicata or collateral estoppel.

During trial, the court heard testimony from the following witnesses: Brenda Matta, a social worker employed by the Department of Children and Families (DCF or department) Joseph Lopa, a detective in the New Britain Police Department; and Michael Pierce, a counselor supervisor for the Department of Correction (DOC). In addition, the parties introduced the following exhibits into evidence:

the specific steps ordered for the father;
the TPR social study regarding the three children dated May 11, 2017, and two addenda dated July 27, 2017, and October 23, 2017;
a redacted copy of the father’s certified criminal conviction record dated September 6, 2017, from the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection;
a redacted copy of a DOC document showing the dates of the father’s incarceration in DOC facilities, his time in each facility, and his disciplinary history while incarcerated;
the DOC Offender Accountability Plan showing programs that DOC recommended for the father;
a copy of the Protection Order Registry showing pending criminal charges against the father and full no-contact protective orders entered in those proceedings prohibiting him from having any contact or other types of interactions with the three children who are the subject of the pending TPR petitions;
one page of the DCF Running Narrative for January 8, 2016; a redacted copy of a DCF Investigation Protocol regarding a department investigation that began on May 22, 2015, after Deanna’s school reported that the child had complained that her mother’s boyfriend had hit her; [5] and
an " ABHS Progress Report" from Wheeler Clinic dated August 27, 2015, showing the father’s participation in substance abuse treatment there in 2015.

Evidence ended on October 31, 2017, and the parties presented closing arguments that same day. On November 15, 2017, the court issued an order directing the parties to address issues related to the adjudicatory grounds pleaded by the petitioner. The parties submitted written responses to the court’s order on December 1, 2017, and further argument was heard on the court’s order on December 6, 2017, when the parties were before the court for hearing on the commissioner’s motions to approve permanency plans (MRP) for TPR and adoption that had been filed on November 3, 2017, and the father’s objections thereto.[6] The evidence on the TPR petitions was incorporated into the MRP hearing, and the petitioner also offered the MRP social study into evidence on the permanency plans.

The court is not aware of proceedings pending in any other court regarding the custody of the children and has jurisdiction. As neither of the children’s parents has claimed native American heritage, the requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act are not pertinent to these proceedings. The court has carefully considered the petitions, the MRPs, the evidence presented on both, and the information or materials judicially noticed according to the standards required by law. These matters are now ready for decision. For the reasons discussed below, the petitions are granted, the MRPs are approved, and the commissioner is appointed statutory parent for each child.

I PRELIMINARY FINDINGS OF FACT

All three of these children have special needs, discussed more thoroughly below, that their parents had neglected to meet before the filing of the neglect petitions that initiated the pending child protection cases. DCF had substantiated both parents at least twice for medical neglect- in 2011, for not following through with important medical appointments for Madison and Deanna,[7] and in 2012, for cancelling appointments for then three-month-old Emma Grace against the advice of her doctor.[8] Although the Investigation Protocol asserted that " [t]he case was closed on 7/1/13 due to the children being up to date medically and the parents meeting the children’s needs" ; father’s exhibit B Investigation Protocol, p. 4; the evidence shows otherwise. The parents continued to miss medical appointments for Emma Grace after those substantiations, including three missed appointments with an ear, nose and throat specialist between March and May 2013, missed appointments with a neurologist in March 2013, and with a neonatologist in April 2013, and two missed pediatrician appointments in November 2013.

In the fall of 2013, school authorities were unable for a time to reach the parents to talk with them about escalating behavioral problems that Madison was exhibiting in school such as leaving school twice, exposing herself, making sexual gestures, swearing and screaming at school employees, and throwing an eraser at another child.[9] In 2015, Madison missed forty days of school. Her school sent several letters to the parents and made phone calls to the home in attempts to obtain the parents’ cooperation in making sure Madison attended school regularly, but the parents never provided adequate documentation for the absences, such as doctors’ notes.

In September 2014, then six-year-old Deanna, who is developmentally delayed, was found wandering outside the home in a dirty and disheveled condition and without any parental oversight. Both parents were substantiated by DCF for physical neglect and arrested for risk of injury.[10] On April 29, 2015, a school staff member contacted DCF reporting that Deanna had a six-inch red mark on her back side, was claiming that " daddy hit her with a knife ... because she was not a good girl," and that " she wants him to stop hitting her because it hurts." The caller further reported that when asked again " how she was hit ... she said with a belt and then said he uses both a knife and a belt." The school also reported that " the child could not say when this happened" and " is not afraid to go home." The caller described Deanna as " cognitively low" and functioning " at a 3-year developmental level." Father’s exhibit B, p. 5. The DCF Investigation Protocol is not clear why the department decided not to substantiate either parent for neglect at that point.

Statements that Deanna made to her teachers a month later did lead to DCF action, however. On May 22, 2015, Deanna told her teacher that " Tony and Dave" were living in the home with her mother and Tony " threw her on the bed last night on purpose." She also told her teacher that Tony had " hit her on the hand with either a knife or razor" and that " when she is a good girl he will tickle her on her chest and it is supposed to feel good ... She said that Tony is scary and mean. She is afraid to go home because she is afraid of Tony ... She followed up by saying Madison got hit. She then changed what she said and said no, as Madison is a good girl." Id., 6. The child’s statements were reported to DCF, which assigned the report for a " same day" response. At the school, the investigative social worker also observed a long scratch on Deanna’s left arm. The child had said to the school nurse that her sister caused the scratch but had told her teacher that " Tony cut her arm with a knife." Deanna told the social worker that she " didn’t know how it happened." She also said that her father was not living in the home, that " David and Tony" were living there, and that " there are no adults in her home scare her except for ‘Old Dave.’ She doesn’t know why he scares her except that he is bad to her." Id. She gave contradictory statements, saying both that " ‘Old Dave’ has hit her with a belt but then that he doesn’t hit her." Id. The social worker also went to the home, where she interviewed the mother and all three children. The mother denied that Tony was living in the home. On another home visit two days later, the social worker met with both the mother and father.

Initially Mr. S. kept in contact and cooperated with DCF during the investigations of the April 29 and May 22, 2015 reports. On May 12, 2015, for...

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