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In re Oreoluwa O.J.

Supreme Court of Connecticut

May 31, 2016

IN RE OREOLUWA O.J[*]

          Argued November 5, 2015

          Michael S. Taylor, assigned counsel, with whom were James P. Sexton, assigned counsel, and, on the brief, Matthew C. Eagan, assigned counsel, 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, Gregory T. D’Auria, solicitor general, and Benjamin Zivyon, assistant attorney general, for the appellee (petitioner).

          Owen Murphy, for the minor child.

          Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Zarella, Eveleigh, McDonald, Espinosa and Robinson, Js.

          OPINION

          EVELEIGH, J.

         In this certified appeal, [1] we must decide whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the judgment of the trial court terminating the parental rights of the respondent father, Olusegun O., as to his minor son, Oreoluwa O.[2] See In re Oreoluwa O., 157 Conn.App. 490, 116 A.3d 400 (2015). On appeal, the respondent asserts, inter alia, that the Appellate Court improperly affirmed the judgment of the trial court concluding that the Department of Children and Families (department) had made reasonable efforts to reunify Oreoluwa with the respondent in accordance with General Statutes (Supp. 2016) § 17a-112 (j) (1).[3] We agree with the respondent and, accordingly, reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court.

         The opinion of the Appellate Court sets forth the following relevant facts and procedural history. ‘‘The respondent, together with his wife, Oreoluwa’s mother, [4]live in Nigeria. Oreoluwa’s mother traveled to the United States while pregnant [and gave birth to him in the United States]. Prior to his birth, it was determined that he suffered significant congenital heart defects, and he was diagnosed with several complexheart condi-tions 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 approximately three months old, Oreoluwa was readmitted to the hospital, where medical personnel observed his mother behaving erratically and having difficulty administering his medications.

         ‘‘On May 3, 2013, the petitioner, the Commissioner of Children and Families (commissioner), sought from the court an order of temporary custody and filed a neglect petition as to Oreoluwa. The commissioner alleged that Oreoluwa was neglected in that he was being denied proper care and was being permitted to live under conditions injurious to his [well-being], and that he was uncared for in that his home could not provide the specialized care that he required. Oreoluwa was adjudicated neglected and committed to the custody of the commissioner. The court approved specific steps for the respondent to take so he could be reunited with Oreoluwa. On December 23, 2013, the commissioner filed a petition for the termination of the respondent’s parental rights regarding Oreoluwa on the grounds that (1) Oreoluwa had been abandoned by the respondent in the sense that he failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility as to [Oreoluwa’s welfare], and (2) there was no ongoing parent-child relationship with the respondent ‘that ordinarily develops as a result of a parent having met on a day-to-day basis the physical, emotional, moral, and educational needs of [Oreoluwa] . . . and [that] to allow further time for the establishment or reestablish- ment of the parent-child . . . relationship would be detrimental to [Oreoluwa’s] best interests . . . .’ On February 27, 2014, the court entered a default as to the respondent because of his failure to appear at the plea hearing. . . .

         ‘‘The hearing on the termination of parental rights petition was held on March 12, 2014. On March 20, 2014, the court rendered an oral decision terminating the parental rights of the respondent. The respondent subsequently filed a motion for re argument and reconsideration, which was denied. On June 14, 2014, the respondent [appealed]. The respondent also filed a motion for articulation of the decision to terminate parental rights, which was denied. The respondent filed a motion for review with [the Appellate Court], which granted the motion. On October 10, 2014, the trial court issued its articulation.

         ‘‘The court found by clear and convincing evidence pursuant to . . . § 17a-112 (j) (1) that the department made reasonable efforts to reunify Oreoluwa with the respondent given the circumstances. The court noted that ‘the [respondent’s] absence from the state, and indeed from this country, has limited the type and number of services that the department has been able to provide to him. When a parent is not available to participate in services, the reasonableness of the department’s efforts must be judged in that context.’ The court explained that although the department was not able to provide [the respondent with] services, it had provided him with contact information for the Nigerian consulate in New York, maintained communication with him, investigated a possible placement resource for Oreoluwa suggested by the respondent, and attempted, although unsuccessfully, to set up visitation via [an Internet based video conference system known as] Skype. . . .

         ‘‘After finding that the allegations of the petition were proven by clear and convincing evidence, the court then determined whether termination was in the best interest of Oreoluwa. The court considered the seven statutory factors and [in its articulation] made written findings as to each factor pursuant to § 17a-112 (k). The court ultimately concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that it was in Oreoluwa’s best interest to terminate the respondent’s parental rights.’’ (Footnotes altered.) In re Oreoluwa O., supra, 157 Conn.App. 493–96.

         The respondent appealed from the judgment of the trial court to the Appellate Court. On appeal, the respondent claimed that the trial court improperly determined that ‘‘(1) the [department] made reasonable efforts to reunify him with Oreoluwa, (2) the respondent abandoned Oreoluwa, and (3) the respondent had no ongoing parent-child relationship with Oreoluwa. He also claim[ed], 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.’’ Id., 492–93.

         The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. In regard to the reunification efforts, the Appellate Court recognized as follows: ‘‘The department maintained communication with the respondent via e-mail and telephone calls, and, when the respondent indicated a possible placement resource for Oreo-luwa with an attorney in Philadelphia, the department contacted the potential resource. The department was later informed by the [respondent], however, that he no longer wished for the potential placement resource to be involved. Although the respondent argues that these efforts by the department did not actually relate to reunification, we conclude that under the circumstances of the present case, the actions taken by the department were reasonable and related to reunification.’’ Id., 501.

         The Appellate Court further concluded that the trial court’s findings as to reasonable efforts had adequate evidentiary support. Id. In regard to the trial court’s finding ‘‘that the respondent’s absence from the country prevented the department from being able to provide him with any services, ’’ the Appellate Court agreed that ‘‘the reasonableness of the department’s efforts must be assessed in light of this key finding.’’ Id. In view of the foregoing, the Appellate Court concluded that ‘‘the trial court’s finding that the department made reasonable efforts to reunify Oreoluwa with the respondent was not clearly erroneous.’’ Id., 502. This appeal followed.

         Although the respondent has raised several issues on appeal to this court, [5] we need address only one, because our resolution of that claim is dis positive of the appeal. The respondent claims that the Appellate Court improperly affirmed the judgment of the trial court because the department failed to undertake the reasonable efforts required by § 17a-112 (j) (1) to reunite him with Oreo-luwa before it filed the petition to terminate his parental rights. We conclude that the department failed to undertake such efforts and, accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court on that basis.

         Pursuant to § 17a-112 (j), [6] the trial court must make certain required findings after a hearing before it may terminate a party’s parental rights. It is well established that, ‘‘[u]nder § 17a-112, a hearing on a petition to terminate parental rights consists of two phases: the adjudi-catory phase and the dispositional phase. During the adjudicatory phase, the trial court must determine whether one or more of the . . . grounds for termination of parental rights set forth in § 17a-112 [(j) (3)] exists by clear and convincing evidence. . . . In contrast to custody proceedings, in which the best interests of the child are always the paramount consideration and in fact usually dictate the outcome, in termination proceedings the statutory criteria must be met before termination can be accomplished and adoption proceedings begun. . . . Section [17a-112 (j) (3)] carefully sets out . . . [the] situations that, in the judgment of the legislature, constitute countervailing interests sufficiently powerful to justify the termination of parental rights in the absence of consent.’’ (Citation omitted; footnote omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) In re Eden F., 250 Conn. 674, 688–89, 741 A.2d 873 (1999). ‘‘If the trial court determines that a statutory ground for termination exists, then it proceeds to the dispositional phase. During the dispositional phase, the trial court must determine whether termination is in the best interests of the child.’’ Id., 689.

         Also as part of the adjudicatory phase, ‘‘the department is required to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that it has made reasonable efforts . . . to reunify the child with the parent, unless the court finds . . . that the parent is unable or unwilling to benefit from reunification . . . . Turning to the statutory scheme encompassing the termination of the parental rights of a child committed to the [custody of the commissioner], [§ 17a-112] imposes on the department the duty, inter alia, to make reasonable efforts to reunite the child or children with the parents. The word reasonable is the linchpin on which the department’s efforts in a particular set of circumstances are to be adjudged, using the clear and convincing standard of proof. Neither the word reasonable nor the word efforts is, however, defined by our legislature or by the federal act from which the requirement was drawn. . . . [R]eason-able efforts means doing everything reasonable, not everything possible.’’ (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) In re Samantha C., 268 Conn. 614, 632, 847 A.2d 883 (2004).

         Subsequent to the Appellate Court’s decision in the present case, this court clarified the applicable standard of review of an appeal from a judgment of the trial court pursuant to § 17a-112 (j). See In re Shane M., 318 Conn. 568, 587, 122 A.3d 1247 (2015); see also In re Gabriella A., 319 Conn. 775, 789–90, 127 A.3d 948 (2015). In those cases, this court clarified that ‘‘[w]e review the trial court’s subordinate factual findings for clear error. . . . We review the trial court’s ultimate determination that a parent has failed to achieve sufficient rehabilitation [or that a parent is unable to benefit from reunification services] for evidentiary sufficiency . . . .’’ In re Gabriella A., supra, 789–90. We conclude that it is appropriate to apply the same standard of review of a trial court’s decision with respect to whether the department made reasonable efforts at reunification. See id.; see also In re Jorden R., 293 Conn. 539, 558–59, 979 A.2d 469 (2009). Accordingly, we conclude that we must review the trial court’s decision in the present case with respect to whether the department made reasonable efforts at reunification for evidentiary sufficiency.

         In the present case, the trial court determined that ‘‘the department has made reasonable efforts to locate and reunify Oreoluwa with the [respondent] given the circumstances.’’ In making this finding, the trial court first recognized that the respondent’s presence in Nigeria limited the type and number of services that the department could provide to him. The trial court further relied on the fact that the department maintained communication with the respondent, contacted the resource named by him who resided in the United States, attempted unsuccessfully to provide electronic visitation and communication with Oreoluwa through Skype, and provided the respondent with contact information for the Nigerian consulate in New York. The Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the trial court, concluding that, under the circumstances of this case, ‘‘the trial court’s finding that the department made reasonable efforts to reunify Oreoluwa with the respondent was not clearly erroneous.’’ In re Oreoluwa O., supra, 157 Conn.App. 502.

         In the present case, the department filed the petition for termination of the respondent’s parental rights on December 23, 2013.At that time, Oreoluwa was approximately eleven months old.

         At the time that the commissioner filed the petition for termination of the respondent’s parental rights, the respondent had taken significant steps to remain involved in Oreoluwa’s life. The respondent paid for the hotel where Oreoluwa and his mother initially had resided. The respondent also repeatedly attempted to contact the cardiologists who were caring for Oreo-luwa, but did not receive any communication from them. The respondent also was in ‘‘constant contact’’ with the department, calling once a week and e-mailing more frequently to receive updates regarding Oreoluwa. The respondent also identified possible placement resources for Oreoluwa in the United States, which were ultimately unsuccessful.

         Furthermore, the respondent repeatedly requested that he be allowed to communicate with Oreoluwa through Skype. Although the department’s employees repeatedly requested that the department obtain the necessary equipment to enable this video conference- namely, a tablet-the department never approved the request and the respondent was never allowed to video conference with Oreoluwa.

         Prior to the commissioner filing the petition for termination of the respondent’s parental rights, the respondent filed two applications for visas to travel to the United States. Both of the respondent’s applications for visas were denied.

         At the time that the commissioner filed the petition for termination of the respondent’s parental rights, Oreoluwa had undergone multiple cardiac procedures, which had been successful. Nevertheless, a December, 2013 social study prepared by the department indicated that Oreoluwa would ‘‘require several cardiac procedures and surgeries throughout his life according to his cardiologist . . . .’’ It further indicated that Oreoluwa ‘‘is not able to travel to Nigeria due to his medical status and it is unclear at this time when he would be cleared to travel.’’

         The medical information presented at the trial in this matter in March, 2014, contained no further information about Oreoluwa’s medical condition either at the time the commissioner filed the petition for termination of parental rights or up to the time of trial. Indeed, the medical information in the form of affidavits from Oreo-luwa’s physicians dated back to April, 2013.[7] Furthermore, the only evidence presented at trial that related to when Oreoluwa would be cleared to travel indicated that, before he was born, physicians expected that he would be unable to travel for at least one year from his birth.

         At the time of the trial, the department entered into evidence a study in support of a permanency plan dated January 14, 2014. In that study, the department reported that Oreoluwa had undergone another cardiac catheter-ization on December 3, 2013, which ‘‘went well.’’ The report also indicated that Oreoluwa had an appointment with his pediatric cardiologist on January 6, 2014, and that he is ‘‘doing well and can start on whole milk and more solid foods.’’ The study further stated that another appointment with his pediatric cardiologist would be scheduled in two months and that ‘‘[t]he cardiac and surgical teams will meet prior to this appointment to discuss how they are going to proceed.’’ This study repeated the same lines from the December, 2013 social study as follows: ‘‘[Oreoluwa] will require several cardiac procedures and surgeries throughout his life according to [his cardiologist]. Oreoluwa is not able to travel to Nigeria due to his medical status and it is unclear at this time when he would be cleared to travel. There is also uncertainty regarding the medical care he would be able to receive in Nigeria and if his ongoing medical needs would be able to be met.’’

         The trial court found that, ‘‘[a]s of December, 2013, [Oreoluwa] was not able to travel to Nigeria due to his medical status, and it was not clear when he could do so.’’ The trial court cited to the department’s study of the permanency plan as the source for the foregoing statement. The trial court further found that Oreoluwa ‘‘was still not cleared to travel as of the date of the trial.’’ The trial court did not cite to any authority for the foregoing statement about Oreoluwa’s medical status at the time of trial. The trial court made no findings as to when Oreoluwa would be cleared to travel or when his medical team was meeting to discuss his future medical plan, despite the fact that the department’s own exhibit revealed that Oreoluwa’s cardiac and surgical team would be meeting prior to his appointment in March, 2014, to develop a plan for his future medical care. Indeed, there was no information presented at trial indicating whether Oreoluwa had any surgeries or cardiac procedures scheduled at that time.[8]

         The trial court then concluded that ‘‘the clear and convincing evidence establishes that the department has made reasonable efforts to locate and reunify Oreo-luwa with the [respondent] given the circumstances. . . . [The respondent’s] absence from the state, and indeed from this country, has limited the type and number of services that the department has been able to provide to him.’’

         In considering whether, in the present case, the Appellate Court properly upheld the trial court’s finding that the department had made reasonable efforts to reunify the respondent with Oreoluwa, we are mindful that ‘‘the requirement that the department make reasonable efforts to reunite parent and child affects the substantive rights of the parties to a termination proceeding. The requirement of reunification efforts provides additional substantive protection for any parent who contests a termination action, and places a concomitant burden on the state to take appropriate measures designed to secure reunification of parent and child.’’ In re Eden F., supra, 250 Conn. 696. Furthermore, we are mindful that the burden is on the commissioner to demonstrate that the department has made reasonable efforts to locate the parent and to reunify the child with the parent. See, e.g., In re Gabriella A., supra, 319 Conn. 777 n.4 (‘‘[t]he [commissioner] must prove either that [the department] has made reasonable efforts to reunify or, alternatively, that the parent is unwilling or unable to benefit from reunification efforts’’ [internal quotation marks omitted]). ‘‘[R]eason-able efforts means doing everything reasonable . . . .’’ (Emphasis added.) In re Samantha C., supra, 268 Conn. 632.[9]

         In examining the reasonableness of the department’s efforts in the present case, we are guided by the Appellate Court’s decision in In re Shaiesha O., 93 Conn.App. 42, 887 A.2d 415 (2006). In In re Shaiesha O., the commissioner filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the child’s mother and father, prior to learning the results of a pending paternity test. Id., 46. Once the results of the paternity test were known, the department notified the father and he objected to the petition to terminate his parental rights. Id.

         In reversing the termination of the parental rights of the father, the Appellate Court relied on the following facts: ‘‘Despite learning on December 10, 2002, that the [father] might be [the child’s] father, the department did not make any attempt to contact him until March 17, 2003, when [a department social worker] left him a message regarding the taking of a paternity test. For the approximately ten week period from the first contact the department had with the [father] until the filing of the petition, [the department social worker] had two brief telephone conversations with the [father] regarding his paternity test. [The department social worker] testified that the first time that she had a discussion with him regarding a possible placement plan for [the child] was during June, 2003, after the filing of the petition to terminate the [father’s] parental rights. She stated that as of June, 2003, the department had not facilitated any visitation between the [father] and [the child]. Significantly, she stated that if the [father] had requested visitation, she would have told him that he [could not] see [the child] until his paternity was confirmed.’’ (Emphasis omitted.) Id., 49.

         On the basis of the foregoing facts, the Appellate Court in In re Shaiesha O., 93 Conn.App. 50–51, reasoned as follows: ‘‘[I]t is plain that prior to the filing of the petition to terminate the [father’s] parental rights, the department made no efforts to foster a relationship between [the child] and the [father] because his paternity had not been established. However understandable that posture might be from a dispositional perspective, the department’s disinclination to encourage a relationship between the [father] and [the child] can hardly be taken as evidence of an effort to reunify the two.’’ Id., 49–50. The Appellate Court continued: ‘‘Given that evidential underlayment, we are not, as a reviewing court, able to find any support in the record for a finding that the department made any efforts, let alone reasonable ones, to reunify [the child] with the [father] before the commissioner sought to terminate his parental rights. . . . Additionally, since the record reflects that the department had not discussed with the [father] a placement plan for [the child] until after the commissioner had moved to terminate his parental rights, the record is devoid of any support for its contention that he was unable or unwilling to benefit from reunification efforts as of the date the petition was filed. Accordingly, we conclude that there is inadequate evidentiary support in the record for a finding that the department made the statutorily required efforts to reunify [the child] with the [father] or that he was unwilling or unable to benefit from such efforts.’’

         In the present case, a review of the department’s efforts to reunify the respondent with Oreoluwa demonstrates that all of those efforts were based on the department’s presumption that the respondent would have to be present in this country to engage in reunification efforts and that Oreoluwa could not travel to Nigeria. Despite knowing that Oreoluwa had successfully undergone repeated cardiac procedures and that his medical team was meeting to discuss future medical plans, the department took no steps to inquire into this medical information or to present it to the trial court.

         Although the department’s two studies indicated that ‘‘it is unclear at this time when [Oreoluwa] would be cleared to travel, ’’ the commissioner presented no evidence regarding any additional steps taken to obtain more specific information about when Oreoluwa may be cleared to travel or at least when the medical authorities would have some clarity regarding his future ability to travel. Because the respondent was having difficulty traveling to this country to be with Oreoluwa, the department’s utter failure to determine when Oreoluwa would be able to travel to Nigeria can hardly be taken as evidence of an effort to reunify the two.

         ‘‘In the adjudicatory phase, the judicial authority is limited to evidence of events preceding the filing of the petition or the latest amendment, except where the judicial authority must consider subsequent events as part of its determination as to the existence of a ground for termination of parental rights.’’ Practice Book § 35a-7 (a). Our rules of practice and the relevant statutory provisions do not, however, address whether the trial court should consider evidence of events following the filing of the petition for termination of parental rights when determining whether the department has made reasonable efforts. In the present case, the trial court did examine the efforts made by the department ‘‘as of the adjudicatory date.’’ Neither party asserts that it was improper for the trial court to consider events subsequent to the filing of the petition for termination of parental rights in the present case. Under the facts of the present case, however, we conclude that it was not improper for the trial court to consider events subsequent to the filing of the petition for termination of parental rights. At the time of filing the petition for termination of parental rights in the present case, there was uncertainty as to when Oreoluwa would be cleared to travel and his medical status was in a state of flux. Furthermore, the efforts that the department was able to undertake depended on Oreoluwa’s changing medical status. Therefore, we conclude that it was necessary for the trial court to consider events subsequent to the filing of the petition for termination of parental rights in this case. Indeed, we conclude that the commissioner was unable to meet the burden of demonstrating that the department had made reasonable efforts to reunify Oreoluwa with the respondent without providing updated medical information about Oreoluwa at the time of the trial.

         Furthermore, the trial court relied on summary statements in the department’s studies that ‘‘[t]here is also uncertainty regarding the medical care [Oreoluwa] would be able to receive in Nigeria and if his ongoing medical needs would be able to be met.’’ The commissioner presented no evidence that the department had attempted to investigate what type of medical care Ore-oluwa would receive in Nigeria. The department’s failure to investigate the type of medical care available to Oreoluwa in Nigeria and its willingness to rely on ‘‘uncertainty’’ about that care is also not evidence of an effort to reunify the respondent with Oreoluwa. Indeed, even if the department had legitimate concerns about the medical care available to Oreoluwa in Nigeria, those concerns do not relieve the department of its burden of making reasonable efforts to achieve reunification by engaging the respondent and making available services aimed at instilling in him healthy parental skills. See In re Vincent B., 73 Conn.App. 637, 646–47, 809 A.2d 1119 (2002) (concerns regarding father’s perceived plans after reunification did not relieve department from making reasonable efforts to achieve reunification), cert. denied, 262 Conn. 934, 815 A.2d 136 (2003).[10]

         In the present case the trial court’s finding that the department made reasonable efforts was based on the following facts: (1) the department maintained communication with the respondent; (2) the department contacted the resource named by the respondent who resided in the United States; and (3) the department attempted unsuccessfully to provide electronic visitation and communication with Oreoluwa through Skype. Without updated medical information regarding Oreolu-wa’s ability to travel and medical needs, however, we conclude that the commissioner did not meet the burden of demonstrating that the department did ‘‘everything reasonable’’ under the circumstances to reunite the respondent with Oreoluwa. See In re Samantha C., supra, 268 Conn. 632. Therefore, we conclude that the Appellate Court improperly determined that there was adequate evidentiary support for the trial court’s finding that the department made reasonable efforts to reunify the respondent with Oreoluwa.

         The judgment of the Appellate Court is reversed and the case is remanded to that court with direction to reverse the judgment of the trial court only with respect to the termination of the respondent’s parental rights and to remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

          In this opinion ROGERS, C. J, and PALMER, ZARE-LLA, McDONALD and ROBINSON, Js, concurred.

          ESPINOSA, J., dissenting.

         I agree with the majority that the trial court’s subordinate factual findings were not clearly erroneous, specifically, that as of December, 2013, it was unclear when the minor child in the present case, Oreoluwa O., would be medically able to travel, and, that as of the date of the trial on the petition for termination of the parental rights of the respondent father, Olusegun O., filed by the petitioner, the Commissioner of Children and Families, Oreoluwa was still not medically cleared to travel. Those subordinate factual findings, construed together with additional evidence in the record, including evidence that the respondent failed to travel to the United States in order to receive reunification services from the Department of Children and Families (department), provide sufficient evidentiary support for the trial court’s ultimate factual finding pursuant to General Statutes (Supp. 2016) § 17a-112 (j) (1), [1] that, given the circumstances, the department made reasonable efforts toward reunification.[2] I therefore disagree with the majority that the Appellate Court improperly affirmed the judgment of the trial court terminating the parental rights of the respondent with respect to Oreoluwa. See In re Oreoluwa O., 157 Conn.App. 490, 116 A.3d 400 (2015). The majority’s conclusion to the contrary fails to accord proper deference to the trial court’s factual findings. That is, rather than properly viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the judgment of the trial court and considering all of the evidence along with the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom to determine whether the record provides sufficient support for the trial court’s judgment, the majority draws every inference possible to reverse that judgment. To be clear, whenever inferences may be drawn from the evidence in the record or the findings of the trial court, the majority and I draw opposite inferences-I draw the inference that supports the judgment of the trial court, while the majority draws the inference least likely to support that judgment. In addition, rather than considering the totality of the evidence, the majority reviews the record selectively, considering only the evidence that does not support the judgment of the trial court, and ignoring or discounting the evidence that does provide support. Finally, the majority turns the sufficiency of the evidence analysis on its head by grounding its conclusion that the evidence was insufficient not on a consideration of the evidence that was presented, along with reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, but on information that was not in the record. In other words, the majority examines the record to determine what was absent, and concludes that the information that was missing renders the record insufficient to support the judgment of the trial court. The majority does not cite to any authority to justify this approach to a sufficiency of the evidence inquiry.

         Because I conclude that, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the judgment of the trial court, the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court’s finding as to reasonable efforts; id., 502; I address the remainder of the respondent’s claims on appeal, and conclude that the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court’s finding that the respondent abandoned Oreoluwa and properly concluded that the respondent lacked standing to assert a due process challenge on behalf of Oreoluwa for alleged harms suffered by the respondent.[3] Id., 506, 509. Accordingly, I respectfully dissent.

         I

         I begin with the issue of whether the department expended reasonable efforts toward reunification. In order to grant a petition to terminate parental rights, the trial court is required to find by clear and convincing evidence that the department ‘‘has made reasonable efforts . . . to reunify the child with the parent . . . unless the court finds . . . that the parent is unable or unwilling to benefit from reunification efforts . . . .’’ General Statutes (Supp. 2016) § 17a-112 (j) (1). ‘‘The word reasonable is the linchpin on which the department’s efforts in a particular set of circumstances are to be adjudged . . . . Neither the word reasonable nor the word efforts is, however, defined by our legislature or by the federal act from which the requirement was drawn. . . . [R]easonable efforts means doing everything reasonable, not everything possible.’’ (Internal quotation marks omitted.) In re Samantha C., 268 Conn. 614, 632, 847 A.2d 883 (2004).

         Because the question of whether the department made reasonable efforts depends on the particular circumstances of the case, I begin with the facts as evidenced in the record and found by the trial court. Pursuant to the applicable standard; see In re Shane M., 318 Conn. 569, 587–88, 122 A.3d 1247 (2015); I review the trial court’s subordinate factual findings for clear error and its ultimate determinations, including the determination that the department engaged in reasonable efforts, for evidentiary sufficiency. That is, I ‘‘consider whether the trial court could have reasonably concluded, upon the facts established and the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, that the cumulative effect of the evidence was sufficient to justify its [ultimate conclusion].’’ (Internal quotation marks omitted.) In re Gabriella A., 319 Conn. 775, 789, 127 A.3d 948 (2015). Because the majority does not abide by the applicable standard of review, I emphasize that ‘‘[i]t is not the function of this court to sit as the [fact finder] when we review the sufficiency of the evidence . . . rather, we must determine, in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict, whether the totality of the evidence, including reasonable inferences therefrom, supports the [judgment of the trial court] . . . . In making this determination, [t]he evidence must begiven the most favorable construction in support of the [judgment] of which it is reasonably capable. . . . In other words, [i]f the [trial court] could reasonably have reached ...


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