In re Trinity, No. H12-CP02-008295-A (CT 4/7/2006)

Decision Date07 April 2006
Docket NumberNo. H12-CP02-008295-A,H12-CP02-008295-A
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesIn re Trinity R. Opinion No.: 93068
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

BARBARA BAILEY JONGBLOED, JUDGE.

On November 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 Gloria R. and Henry M. to their child, Trinity R. Respondent mother and father contest termination of their parental rights. Trial of this matter took place before this court on January 4 and 5, 2006 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 ground alleged against both respondents was that the child was 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 age and the needs of the child, they could assume a responsible position in the life of the child (C.G.S. §17a-112(j)(3)(B)(i)). The petition also alleged as to father only (1) abandonment, in the sense that he has failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to the welfare of the child (C.G.S. §17a-112(j)(3)(A)); and (2) that there is no ongoing parent-child relationship with respect to the father 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 child, and to allow further time for the establishment of the parent-child relationship would be detrimental to the best interest of the child. (C.G.S. §17a-112(j)(3)(D).)

On January 11, 2002, an order of temporary custody ("OTC") was issued by the court (Turner, J.) as to Trinity and her two half-siblings, Kaare E. and Darnell R. At the same time, DCF filed petitions alleging that the children were neglected. On October 9, 2002, the court (Burke, J.) adjudicated all three children neglected and found that they were permitted to live under conditions, circumstances or associations injurious to their well being. Darnell and Kaare were committed to the care and custody of DCF on that date. Father of Trinity, Henry M., contested commitment of the child and a hearing was scheduled. Father failed to appear for the hearing which took place on March 17, 2003. After the hearing, the court (Dannehy, J.) ordered tat Trinity be committed to the care and custody of DCF.

On September 25, 2003, the court (Wollenberg, J.) made a finding that further efforts to reunify with father were no longer appropriate. On September 8, 2004, the court Wollenberg, J.) made a finding that further efforts to reunify with father and mother were no longer appropriate. On November 9, 2004, the termination of parental rights ("TPR") petition 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 study and addendum, a psychological evaluation, and other documentary evidence, and the testimony of DCF social worker Ehibor-Cole and DCF social worker supervisor Argenta, Nancy Randall, Psy. D., Officers Babkiewicz and Kenney of the Bloomfield Police Department, Edward Mayer, AIC (Community Partners in Action), William Young of the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Centers, Inc. ("ADRC") and Yvette Thibodeau, of Klingberg Family Services. Respondent father, Henry M., called Ivis Ayala and Mary Vance, two employees of Klingberg Family Services, Lorenzo Jones (Community Organizer), Renee Smith, and Chuck Cummings (city Manager, City of Hartford) 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 January 7, 2002, mother reported to the Hartford Police Department that her apartment had been burglarized. When the police responded, they discovered that the conditions of the home were deplorable and not consistent with damage from a burglary. Mother was in a physically abusive relationship at the time and there were suspicions of substance abuse which were later substantiated through a hair test. That day mother was arrested and charged with risk of injury and assault in the third degree after she struck the police officer during questioning about the condition of the home. Mother was held on a $15,000 bond and there were no other caretakers who could care for the children. In addition to one-year-old Trinity, half-siblings Kaare and Darnell, who were then nine and eleven, were also removed from the home. A 96-hour hold was invoked and an Order of Temporary Custody issued and was later sustained.

A. Respondent Mother—Gloria R.

Respondent mother, Gloria R., was born in Georgia on July 25, 1966. When she was approximately twelve years of age, her parents separated and Gloria moved from Washington D.C. to Hartford with her mother and siblings. Mother graduated from high school in Hartford in 1984. She has resided in Hartford for many years and remains close to her mother and siblings. Mother has a prior history with DCF dating back to 1994. Previous referrals and a removal of the children in 1996 were based on deplorable and filthy conditions in the home, the children being left crying and unsupervised, and with a lack of appropriate food in the home, the presence of men in the apartment at all hours, and cocaine use in the apartment around the children by mother and male associates. In August 1996, Darnell and Kaare were removed from mother's care under an OTC and in October 1996, they were adjudicated neglected and committed to the care and custody of DCF. (Teller, J.) After three years, the commitments of Darnell and Kaare were revoked (Swienton, J.) and the children were returned to mother. The case was closed in January 2000. Trinity was born November 27, 2000 and in January 2002, an OTC was once again granted, (Turner, J.), as to all three children.

Mother has never been married and...

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