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In re Diamond W.

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Fairfield, Bridgeport, Juvenile Matters

August 23, 2015

In re Diamond W. [1] In re Xavier M

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

Michael G. Maronich, Judge.

The petitioner, the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families (hereinafter " DCF") filed petitions pursuant to General Statutes Section 17a-112 et seq. to terminate the parental rights of Cassandra M., the biological mother, and Maurice W., the biological father, to their children, Diamond W., born September 19, 2012, and Xavier M., born January 3, 2014. Both parents have appeared and are represented by counsel. The court has previously found that both parents have been properly served with each of the petitions. The court re-confirms those findings. The matter proceeded to trial on April 22, 2015. Prior to the commencement of the proceedings on that date, the respondent father, Maurice W., consented to the termination of his parental rights. The consent was accepted by the court as knowingly and voluntarily made with the advice and assistance of competent counsel and with a full understanding of the legal consequences of his actions. Cassandra M. failed to appear for the trial of this matter. Neither parent claims Indian Tribal affiliation. The court is aware of no other proceedings pending in any other court regarding the custody of these children. The court has jurisdiction.

The statutory grounds alleged against the respondent mother, Cassandra M., are as follows: 1) the children have been found in prior proceedings to have been neglected or uncared for and the parent has failed to achieve such degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that within a reasonable time, considering the age and needs of the child, the parent could assume a responsible position within the life of the child (General Statutes Section 17a-112(j)(3)(B)(i)); 2) there is no ongoing parent-child relationship with respect to the parent that ordinarily develops as a result of a parent having met on a continuing, day-to-day basis the physical, emotional, moral or educational needs of the child and to allow further time for the establishment or re-establishment of the parent-child relationship would be detrimental to the best interests of the child. (General Statutes Section 17a-112(j)(3)(D).)

I. FACTS & FTNDINGS

The court heard or received testimony from the DCF case worker assigned to this matter, clinicians from Southwest Community Health Center (SWCHC) and Connecticut Renaissance and an officer from adult probation. The court also received documentary evidence including social studies for each child dated September 19, 2012, and October 14, 2014, as well as an addendum to the studies dated April 14, 2015.

The court finds the following by clear and convincing evidence. Diamond was born on September 19, 2012. Although she tested negative for controlled substances, her mother, Cassandra, tested positive for cocaine. Because Cassandra was homeless and had substance abuse issues, an ex parte order of temporary custody was issued on September 26, 2012. The order was sustained on October 4, 2012, and preliminary specific steps were ordered. Diamond was adjudicated as neglected on May 16, 2013, and final specific steps were ordered. This termination of parental rights proceeding was commenced on September 22, 2014. Xavier was born on January 3, 2014. He was premature at birth and had aspirated meconium. Because Cassandra was incarcerated at the time, an order of temporary custody was issued on January 21, 2014. The order was sustained on January 31, 2014, and preliminary specific steps were ordered. Xavier was adjudicated as neglected on April 21, 2014, and final specific steps were ordered. This termination of parental rights proceeding was commenced on October 15, 2014. The termination petitions on both children were consolidated for trial.

As To Respondent Mother, Cassandra M.

Cassandra is twenty-three years old. She reports that she was the victim of emotional and physical abuse as a child and was placed by New York child protection services with her aunt in Staten Island at age fifteen. She admits to using cocaine and marijuana by age seventeen. She gave birth to her daughter, Diamond, at age twenty-one. Cassandra was actively using cocaine and marijuana throughout her pregnancy and was homeless at the time of birth.

Once DCF became involved, when Diamond came into DCF care, Cassandra was offered services. The issues identified by DCF included substance abuse, mental health, criminal involvement, unstable housing and lack of stable employment. Cassandra completed intake at SWCHC in October 2012. She failed to return for her scheduled substance abuse and mental health evaluations on October 9, 2012 and did not engage in services. She was referred to Connecticut Renaissance on May 10, 2013 and tested positive for cocaine and marijuana, but once again, she failed to engage in treatment. She was also offered weekly visitation with her daughter, Diamond, but did not exercise her right to visit until Diamond was over three months old, in December 2012. Her second visit did not come for a full three additional months, in March 2013. Cassandra was referred for parenting classes in May 2013, but never completed the intake. Commencing in March 2013, Cassandra began exercising regular weekly visits, but these would come to an end within two months when she was incarcerated in June 2013. Cassandra requested no visits during the term of her incarceration which lasted over eight months, into March 2014. During this time, she gave birth to her second child, Xavier M., on January 3, 2014, while still in prison.

Upon her release from prison, Cassandra began exercising weekly supervised visitation with both children in March 2014, but this would taper off drastically when she moved to New York in May 2014. Over the next eleven months, through the trial of this matter, she would be offered forty-one visits, but only attended eighteen, the last on February 7, 2015. Upon her release from prison she was once again referred for substance abuse and mental health treatment to Connecticut Renaissance. She failed to attend scheduled intakes on April 9, 2014, and May 10, 2014. She completed an evaluation on May 15, 2014, testing positive for illicit substances, and was diagnosed as depressive and bi-polar. She failed to follow through and engage in treatment. She was referred to a treatment program in New York in September 2014, but DCF was unable to verify that she had engaged in treatment. Finally, she failed to show for scheduled intakes at SWCHC in November and December 2014.

Since the time of DCF involvement, after the birth of Diamond in September 2012, Cassandra has had five separate arrests and spent eight months in prison. She is currently on parole but has been violated for her failure to comply with her conditions of release, including failure to engage in substance abuse and mental health treatment, and also for her failure to obtain permission before leaving the state. She currently resides in New York. Since the time of DCF involvement she has reported thirteen separate addresses as her residence. DCF cannot verify her current address in New York. DCF has never been able to verify employment or a lawful source of income for Cassandra. Cassandra has reportedly given birth to a third child in New York in December 2014. There is apparently an open case with New York child protective services, but there is no information as to whether Cassandra still has custody of this child.

As To The Children

Both children, Diamond and Xavier, were removed from their mother, Cassandra, at birth. Both were exposed to illicit substances, including marijuana and cocaine, in utero. Diamond was fortunate, testing negative for illicit substances at birth. She is, by all accounts today, a normal healthy child physically, mentally, emotionally and developmentally. Xavier was born prematurely and aspirated meconium at birth. He suffers from asthma, reflux and developmental delays. He is also scheduled for a neurological evaluation for possible seizures.

Both children have been placed in the same foster home since birth. The foster parents have a twelve-year-old biological daughter. Diamond and Xavier look to their foster parents as their primary caregivers and are bonded to them as their parents. The DCF case worker describes the foster family as a " loving ...


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