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), In re Oreoluwa O.

Appellate Court of Connecticut

May 20, 2015

IN RE OREOLUWA O

Argued January 20, 2015.

Page 401

Petition by the Commissioner of Children and Families to terminate the respondents' parental rights with respect to their minor child, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven, Juvenile Matters, and tried to the court, Mosley, J.; judgment terminating the respondents' parental rights, from which the respondent father appealed to this court; thereafter, the court, Mosley, J., issued an articulation of its decision.

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

The respondent father appealed to this court from the judgment of the trial court terminating his parental rights with respect to his minor child. The father, a resident of Nigeria who was unable to obtain a visa to enter the United States and had been defaulted for failure to appear, claimed, inter alia, that the trial court improperly found that the Department of Children and Families, pursuant to statute (§ 17a-112 [j]), had made reasonable efforts to reunify him with the child, and that he had abandoned the child and had no ongoing relationship with him.

Held:

1. The trial court's finding that the department made reasonable efforts to reunify the respondent father with his child was not clearly erroneous, the findings related to the reasonableness of the department's efforts having been adequately supported by the evidence in the record: contrary to the father's claims, the department was not required to provide him with immigration counsel, the department's computers were not equipped to facilitate visitation via a computer based video-chat service, and reunification in Nigeria was not possible because the child was residing in this state and was medically unable to travel to Nigeria; moreover, the department maintained communication with the father and had contacted a possible placement source that he identified for the child, and the father's absence from this country prevented the department from providing him with any services.

2. The respondent father could not prevail on his claim that the trial court's findings that he abandoned the child and had no ongoing parent-child relationship with him were clearly erroneous: the evidence supported the court's determination that the father had abandoned the child because he was unable to fulfill the general obligations of parenthood, as his absence from the country did not excuse him from doing all that he could to demonstrate a reasonable degree of interest, concern and responsibility for the child, he failed to respond to the department's request for income information so as to implement financial support for the child, and he failed to send correspondence or gifts to the child, despite having been provided information to facilitate doing so; accordingly, because the trial court did not err in concluding that the father had abandoned the child and because the establishment of only one statutory ground was necessary to grant a petition to terminate parental rights, this court declined to consider the father's claim as to the ground of his no ongoing parent-child relationship.

3. This court declined to review the respondent father's unpreserved claim that the trial court violated his child's fundamental right to family integrity by failing to advise the father that he could participate in the trial via telephone, videoconference or through the use of continuances to permit him to review exhibits and transcripts prior to presenting his defense, the father having failed to point to any authority indicating he had standing to assert that the child's fundamental right to family integrity was violated by the use of a judicial process that deprived him of notice and opportunity to be heard.

James P. Sexton, assigned counsel, with whom was Michael S. Taylor, for the appellant (respondent father).

Michael Besso, assistant attorney general, with whom were Jessica B. Gauvin, assistant attorney general, and, on the brief, George Jepsen, attorney general, and Benjamin Zivyon, assistant attorney general, for the appellee (petitioner).

Gruendel, Alvord and Norcott, Js. ALVORD, J. In this opinion the other judges concurred.

OPINION

Page 402

[157 Conn.App. 492] ALVORD, J.

The respondent father, Olusegun O., appeals from the judgment of the trial court terminating his parental rights with respect to his minor son, Oreoluwa O.[1] On appeal, he argues that it was clear error for the trial court to determine that (1) the Department of Children and Families (department) made reasonable efforts to reunify him with Oreoluwa, (2) the respondent [157 Conn.App. 493] abandoned Oreoluwa, and (3) the respondent had no ongoing parent-child relationship with Oreoluwa. He also claims, on behalf of Oreoluwa, that the guarantee of due process under the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution required the trial court to provide the respondent with notice of alternative means of participation in the termination trial and required the court to undertake reasonable efforts to use those alternative means. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Page 403

The following facts, as found by the trial court, and procedural history are relevant to the disposition of this appeal. The respondent, together with his wife, Oreoluwa's mother,[2] live in Nigeria. Oreoluwa's mother traveled to the United States while pregnant for the purpose of birthing Oreoluwa in this country. Prior to his birth, it was determined that he suffered significant congenital heart defects, and he was diagnosed with several complex heart conditions after he was born. Initially, he was released from the hospital to his mother's care, and the two lived with a family in Milford for a short time after his birth before moving into a hotel. In mid-April, 2013, when he was ...


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