In re Meagan B., No. F04-CP02-005358-A (CT 8/31/2005)

Decision Date31 August 2005
Docket NumberNo. F04-CP02-005358-A,F04-CP02-005358-A
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesIn re Meagan B. Brandon B. Opinion No.: 90098

Page 1

Unpublished Opinion

In re Meagan B.
Brandon B.
Opinion No.: 90098
No. F04-CP02-005358-A
Superior Court of Connecticut
Judicial District of Middlesex
Child Protection Session at Middletown
August 31, 2005
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

BARBARA BAILEY JONGBLOED, JUDGE.


On January 9, 2004, the petitioner, the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, ("DCF"), filed a petition pursuant to C.G.S. §17a-112 et seq. to terminate the parental rights of Tammie W. and Roger B. to their children, Meagan B. and Brandon B. Respondent mother failed to appear for trial and a default was entered against her. Respondent father contests termination of his parental rights. Trial of this matter took place before this court on June 2, July 13 and 15, 2005 and August 24, 20051 at the Regional Child Protection Session at the Middlesex J.D. For the reasons stated below, the court finds in favor of the petitioner.

The statutory grounds alleged against both respondents as to both children were (1) abandonment, in the sense that they have failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to the welfare of the children (C.G.S. §17a-112(j)(3)(A)); (2) that the children, Meagan and Brandon, were found in a prior proceeding to have been neglected or uncared for and the parents failed to achieve such degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that within a reasonable period of time, considering the ages and the needs of the children, they could assume a responsible position in the lives of the children (C.G.S. §17a-112(j)(3)(B)(i)); and (3) that there is no ongoing parent-child relationship with respect to the parents that ordinarily develops as a result of a parent having met on a day-to-day basis the physical, emotional, moral or educational needs of the children, and to allow further time for the establishment of the parent-child relationship would be detrimental to the best interest of the children. (C.G.S. §17a-112(j)(3)(D)). As to respondent father, the petitioner alleged the additional ground as to Meagan only that she has been denied, by reason of an act or acts of commission or omission, including but not limited to, sexual molestation or exploitation, severe physical abuse or a pattern of abuse by the father, the care, guidance or control necessary for her physical, educational, moral or emotional well-being. (C.G.S. §17a-112(j)(3)(C)).

On June 10, 2002 father brought Meagan and Brandon into the DCF office in Norwalk, CT and reported that he was homeless and unable to care for his two children. DCF invoked a 96-hour administrative hold. On June 13, 2002, DCF filed neglect petitions on behalf of Meagan and Brandon alleging that the children were abandoned, denied proper care and attention physically, educationally, emotionally, or morally and that they were uncared for in that they were homeless. On September 12, 2002, Meagan and Brandon were adjudicated uncared for and committed to the care and custody of DCF (Dennis, J.). On April 15, 2003, commitment was maintained until further order of the court and the court made a finding that further efforts to reunify with mother were no longer appropriate (Brenneman, J.). On January 9, 2004, the petition for termination of parental rights was filed.

The court finds that notice of this proceeding has been provided in accordance with the provisions of the Practice Book. The court further finds that the Child Protection Session of the Superior Court, Juvenile Matters Division, has jurisdiction over the pending matter and that no action is pending in any other court affecting custody of the children.

"The termination of parental rights is defined as the complete severance by court order of the legal relationship, with all its rights and responsibilities, between the child and his [or her] parent . . . [As such, it] is a most serious and sensitive judicial action." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) In re Jonathan M., 255 Conn. 208, 231, 764 A.2d 739 (2001); In re Bruce R., 234 Conn. 194, 200, 662 A.2d 107 (1995).

The termination of parental rights is governed by statute. C.G.S. §17a-112. In a proceeding for termination of parental rights, the petitioner must prove a ground alleged in the petition, as of the date of filing the petition or the last amendment, by clear and convincing evidence. In re Joshua Z., 26 Conn.App. 58, 63, 597 A.2d 842 (1991), cert. denied, 221 Conn. 901, 599 A.2d 1028 (1992); In re Teresa S., 196 Conn. 18, 29, 491 A.2d 355 (1985); Practice Book §32a-3(b), 35a-7. Only one ground need be established for the granting of the petition. In re Juvenile Appeal (84-BC), 194 Conn. 252, 258, 479 A.2d 1204 (1984); In re Karrlo K., 44 Conn.Sup. 101, 106, 669 A.2d 1249 (1994), aff'd, 40 Conn.App. 73, 668 A.2d 1353 (1996).

Termination of parental rights trials proceed in two stages: the adjudication and the disposition. The adjudicatory stage involves the issue of whether the evidence presented establishes by clear and convincing evidence the existence of one or more of the statutory grounds as of the date the petition was filed or last amended. In re Juvenile Appeal (84-AB), 192 Conn. 254, 264, 471 A.2d 1380 (1984). "Pursuant to Practice Book §33-3(a), [now P.B. §35a-7] in deciding the adjudicatory phase of the hearing for the termination of parental rights, the trial court's inquiry is limited to the events and facts preceding the filing of the petition for the termination of parental rights [or last amendment]." In re Daniel C., 63 Conn.App. 339, 357, 776 A.2d 487 (2001). However, "[i]n the adjudicatory phase, the court may rely on events occurring after the date of the filing of the petition to terminate parental rights when considering the issue of whether the degree of rehabilitation is sufficient to foresee that the parent may resume a useful role in the child's life within a reasonable time." In re Stanley D., 61 Conn.App. 224, 230, 763 A.2d 83 (2000) (emphasis in original); see In re Latifa K., 67 Conn.App. 742, 748, 789 A.2d 1024 (2002).

If at least one pleaded ground to terminate is found, the court proceeds to the disposition stage. The court must consider whether the facts, as of the last day of trial, establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination is in the child's best interest. Procedurally, the evidence as to both adjudicatory and dispositional phases is heard at the same trial without first determining if the state has proven a statutory ground for adjudication before consideration of the dispositional question. In re Eden F., 250 Conn. 674, 688-89, 741 A.2d 873 (1999); In re Juvenile Appeal (84-BC), 194 Conn. at 258; State v. Anonymous, 179 Conn. 155, 172-73, 425 A.2d 939 (1979); In re Quanitra M., 60 Conn.App. 96, 102, 758 A.2d 863, cert. denied, 255 Conn. 903, 762 A.2d 909 (2000); In re Emmanuel M., 43 Conn.Sup. 108, 113, 648 A.2d 904, (1993), aff'd, 35 Conn.App. 276, 278, 648 A.2d 881, cert. denied, 231 Conn. 915, 648 A.2d 151 (1994); In re Nicolina T., 9 Conn.App. 598, 602, 520 A.2d 639, cert. denied, 203 Conn. 804, 525 A.2d 519 (1987).

I. FACTS

At trial, the petitioner introduced the social studies, psychological evaluations, DCF narratives and other documentary evidence, and the testimony of DCF social workers Alexandra Chisholm and Shanda Roberts; Rudolfo J. Rosado, Ph.D., and Cathy Hayden, therapist. Respondent father, Roger B., called Detective Robert Kozlowsky of the Shelton Police Department and also testified on his own behalf. The child's attorney participated fully, but introduced no exhibits or testimony. The credible evidence admitted at trial supports the following facts by clear and convincing evidence.

On June 10, 2002 father brought Meagan and Brandon into the DCF office in Norwalk, CT and reported that he was homeless and unable to care for his two children. He stated that his children had been abandoned by their mother in Delaware and left with maternal grandparents there. Maternal grandparents called him and stated that they were unable to care for the children. Father went to Delaware to get them in September or October 2001. After he picked them up, father and the children lived from place to place without a consistent place to sleep at night. He reported that at times he and the children slept in his car. The children reported bathing in the ocean or in lakes and hanging their clothes on trees to dry.

A. Respondent Mother—Tammie W.

Respondent mother, Tammie W., was born in Pennsylvania on August 14, 1972. She has a serious substance abuse history dating back to the early 1990s. She maintained her sobriety for a period of two years but has relapsed on several occasions. In September 2001 when the children were seven and five years old, Roger B. returned home from work and found the house empty. Mother had left the home, taken all the furniture and both children, and moved to Delaware with her parents. She had previously left Roger B. on a number of occasions. A few weeks later, mother left the children with her parents and did not return. Tammie W. has had no contact with the children since December 2001. Mother has not sent any cards, gifts or letters to the children and has made no telephone calls to them. She has not maintained contact with DCF to find out how the children were doing or to ask how she could contact them. Since June 2002, mother has contacted DCF only once, shortly after the children were placed in DCF care, at which time she stated that she could not care for the children, she was going into treatment and had no family who could care for them. She did not leave a telephone number or an address where she could be contacted, but said that she would contact DCF. Since then, she has not called or contacted DCF in any way.

B. Respondent father—Roger B.

Respondent father, Roger B., was born in Norwalk, CT on July 13, 1964. He received his GED in 1982 from Norwalk High School. Father has never been...

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