Nicolina T., In re, 4466

Citation9 Conn.App. 598,520 A.2d 639
Decision Date10 February 1987
Docket NumberNo. 4466,4466
CourtAppellate Court of Connecticut
PartiesIn re NICOLINA T. et al.

Barbara J. Ruhe, Hartford, with whom, on brief, was Jewel A. Gutman, West Simsbury, for appellant (respondent mother).

Judith Merrill Earl, Asst. Atty. Gen., with whom, on brief, were Joseph I. Lieberman, Atty. Gen., Robert W. Garvey, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Emily Resnik, Law Student Intern, for appellee (Commissioner of Children and Youth Services).

Denise Magnoli McNair, New Britain, filed a brief, for minor children.

DUPONT, Chief Judge.

In this action, coterminous petitions were filed by the commissioner of the department of children and youth services (DCYS) seeking the termination of the parental rights of the parents of two minor children pursuant to General Statutes § 17-43a. 1 The trial court granted the petitions and the respondent mother appeals from that judgment. 2 The respondent claims that the trial court erred in ordering such termination because: (1) DCYS failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the termination was in the children's best interests; and (2) such termination denied the respondent her rights to equal protection of the laws guaranteed under the Connecticut constitution. 3

The respondent is the thirty-year old mother of two minor children, Nicolina and Ramiro T. The respondent has been diagnosed as suffering from chronic paranoid schizophrenia and an epileptic disorder, which require medicine and treatment. As a result of her illness, the respondent has periodically been committed to various psychiatric facilities for treatment.

At the time of the hearing, Nicolina was ten and Ramiro was eight years of age. Throughout their young lives, they have been voluntarily committed by the respondent to the care of DCYS. Numerous placements of the children in various foster homes began in 1978 when Nicolina was three years old and Ramiro was one. These placements have lasted for periods ranging from a few days to a year.

The respondent was living in a structured transitional group home at the time of the hearing, and her children have resided in a foster home apart from their mother since 1984. Since then, the respondent has telephoned them twice a week and visited them on a monthly basis, and claims that she would like to provide a home for them in the future. 4

The petitions filed by DCYS for the termination of the parental rights of both parents with respect to each of the children alleged that the children were neglected in that they were abandoned by their father and were denied proper care and attention by their mother. As grounds for such termination, the petitions specifically alleged that the children "had been denied by reason of act or acts of commission or omission, the care, guidance or control necessary for [their] physical, educational, moral, or emotional well-being." The petitions also alleged that there was "no ongoing parent-child relationship, as defined by law." In granting the petitions and ordering termination of the parental rights of both parents, the trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that the children had been abandoned by their father and that each of the grounds alleged by DCYS in the petitions existed.

In her first claim of error, the respondent alleges that DCYS failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the termination of her parental rights was in the best interests of her children. The basis for this claim is that the petitioner failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the children had been denied "the care guidance or control necessary for their physical, educational, moral or emotional well-being," or that there was "no ongoing parent-child relationship" between the children and the respondent. See General Statutes § 17-43a(b).

Although the respondent asserts that the trial court erred in ordering the termination of her parental rights because DCYS failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that such termination was in the children's best interests, her argument is directed to the failure of DCYS to establish by clear and convincing evidence the statutory grounds for termination alleged in its petition. The statutory requirement of a finding that termination was in the best interests of the children is separate and distinct from the requirement of a finding that one of the statutory grounds for such termination existed. See In re Juvenile Appeal (84-BC), 194 Conn. 252, 479 A.2d 1204 (1984).

The requirements for the termination of parental rights pursuant to General Statutes § 17-43a(b) are two-fold. The trial court must find by clear and convincing evidence that such termination was in the best interests of the child, and that one or more of the statutory grounds for termination exists. See In re Migdalia M., 6 Conn.App. 194, 208, 504 A.2d 533, cert. denied, 199 Conn. 809, 508 A.2d 770 (1986). In order to satisfy the statutory requirements for termination of parental rights, DCYS need only prove by clear and convincing evidence one of the statutory grounds provided in § 17-43a(b). In re Juvenile Appeal (84-BC), supra, 194 Conn. at 258, 479 A.2d 1204; In re Migdalia M., supra. Thus, if but one of the statutory grounds alleged in the petition in the present case was proven by clear and convincing evidence, and if, by the same standard, termination was in the best interests of the children, the order of termination must stand.

The detailed and well reasoned memorandum of decision of the trial court set out the facts found and the evidence introduced during the three days of the hearing. Testimony of various witnesses indicated that both children have been exposed to various incidents relating to the manifestations of the respondent's mental illness. Erratic and violent behavior of the mother was documented and testified to, as well as its effect on the children. Testimony indicated that both children had been subjected to physical abuse by the respondent. Moreover, Nicolina had reported at least two incidents of sexual abuse while in her mother's care. One incident involved her mother's boyfriend, and the other involved a babysitter in whose care Nicolina was entrusted. Despite the respondent's self-destructive behavior, she has refused treatment and medication in the past. As a result, both children have stated that they cannot predict when or where their mother's erratic behavior will erupt. Moreover, both children indicated that they fear their mother and prefer not to return to her care.

Expert testimony was introduced by a clinical psychologist who had evaluated both children and submitted a detailed report on his findings. He testified that the respondent's behavior had a powerful and devastating effect on both children's social and emotional development. Nicolina was found to have a low self-esteem and emotional blockage indicative of sexual abuse. Ramiro displayed a higher degree of emotional disturbance as well as a potential visual-motor and learning problem which will require close monitoring and attention in the future. The psychologist concluded that a return of the children to the respondent would entail a significant risk of physical abuse, and would expose Nicolina to repeated sexual abuse. Moreover, he testified that such a return would expose both children to further social and emotional damage, and concluded that both children were in need of mental health attention and treatment which they had not received from their mother because of her inability to provide them with the consistency of care which they required.

Another child psychologist also evaluated both children and testified that they needed a stable and consistent environment. His opinion was that the emotional and psychological effect of returning them to their mother would be "very upsetting and potentially damaging to them," and that it would be in both children's best interests not to return to the respondent.

Testimony of a neuropsychologist was also introduced which revealed that the respondent had difficulties in everyday functioning and could not face new or unpredictable situations. The testimony of two clinical social workers who had worked with the family also indicated that the children had special needs which overwhelmed the mother. A DCYS social worker testified that the children needed a permanent, stable family with consistent and appropriate care. She further indicated that the children were living in a foster home which provided them with such care. At the time of the hearing, both the children and the foster family were in favor of adoption.

The respondent admitted at the hearing that she was not then in a position to take the children back with her. She further indicated that she had no idea how long she would be unable to take the children, or how long she would continue to reside at the transitional living facility.

The respondent disputes much of the testimony presented at the hearing, and alleges that such testimony contained many uncertainties and discrepancies. Moreover, the respondent maintains that no corroborating testimony was presented by the petitioner regarding the allegation that the children were in significant danger of physical abuse. Finally, the respondent challenges the credibility of the expert witnesses, alleging that "they had never seen the children with their mother, or had met the mother."

These claims relate to the weight to be given to the testimony, and are not appropriately directed to an appellate court. See In re Juvenile Appeal (83-BC), 189 Conn. 66, 77, 454 A.2d 1262 (1983); In re Rebecca W., 8 Conn.App. 92, 95, 510 A.2d 1017 (1986). It is the trial court which has the benefit of having all the parties before it, and is thus in the best position to analyze the testimony and evidence and reach an ultimate conclusion regarding whether the statutory criteria for termination have been met. In...

To continue reading

Request your trial
57 cases
  • In re Luis N.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Superior Court
    • November 15, 2016
    ...rehabilitation in this case. See, In re Brendan C., supra, 89 Conn.App. 527-28; In re Jessica S., supra, 51 Conn.App. 673; In re Nicolina T., supra, 9 Conn.App. 607. [149]" In the dispositional phase of termination of parental rights hearing, the trial court must determine whether it is est......
  • In re Meagan B., No. F04-CP02-005358-A (CT 8/31/2005)
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • August 31, 2005
    ...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 I. FACTS At trial, the petitioner introduced the social studies, psychological......
  • In re Anthony J., No. H12-CP03-009426-A (CT 2/1/2006), H12-CP03-009426-A
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • February 1, 2006
    ...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 I. FACTS At trial, the petitioner introduced the social study and addendum, a ......
  • Michael M., In re
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • September 15, 1992
    ...460 A.2d 1277 (1983).12 The testimony of professionals is given great weight in parental termination proceedings. See In re Nicolina T., 9 Conn.App. 598, 605, 520 A.2d 639, cert. denied, 203 Conn. 804, 525 A.2d 519 (1987).13 In In re Jessica, 217 Conn. 459, 468 n. 6, 586 A.2d 597 (1991), th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT