IN RE DANYELLAH S.-C. ET AL.[*]
May 9, 2016
from Superior Court, judicial district of New London, Child
Protection Session at Waterford, Driscoll, J.
Matthew C. Eagan, assigned counsel, with whom was Michael S.
Taylor, assigned counsel, for the appellant (respondent
M. Salton, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the
brief, were George Jepsen, attorney general, Gregory T.
D'Auria, solicitor general, and Benjamin Zivyon,
assistant attorney general, for the appellee (petitioner).
M. Grenger, for the minor children.
Sheldon and Gruendel, Js.
respondent mother appeals from the judgments of the trial
court terminating her parental rights with respect to her
four minor children. On appeal, the respondent claims that the
court improperly denied her midtrial request to remove her
court-appointed counsel. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm
the judgments of the trial court.
oral memorandum of decision, the court found the following
facts. The respondent is the mother of four minor children.
Prior to the birth of their first child, both the respondent
and the father "were involved with the Department of
Children and Families (department). . . . [The respondent]
was the subject of ten department referrals as a child. [The
respondent] and the father began their troubled relationship
in 2002. The department has been involved with them since
2004 for referrals for [their] children's exposure to
domestic violence, substance abuse, and criminal activity, as
well as inadequate supervision and mental health concerns.
May 20, 2013, the [petitioner, the Commissioner of Children
and Families] filed neglect petitions on behalf of [the minor
children] for the above noted concerns .... On March 20,
2014, [the respondent] filed a plea of nolo contendere, and
the father failed to appear. The children were adjudicated
neglected and placed under protective supervision for six
months in [the respondent's] custody. Specific steps were
set for [the respondent]. . . . The steps were designed to
ameliorate the department's concerns . . . and to allow
for family integrity.
March 21, 2014, in keeping with her specific steps, [the
respondent] was referred to the intensive family preservation
program, an in-home service which was essential. [The
respondent] missed two consecutive [department] appointments
for home visits to discuss intake to the program. The
intensive family preservation worker and the department made
an unannounced home visit with [the respondent] and were able
to schedule an intake appointment for the program. [The
respondent] was not home for the scheduled appointment and
was nonresponsive to subsequent efforts to engage her in this
the father, in contravention to his specific steps to
maintain sobriety, tested positive for cocaine .... He was
referred to a higher level of drug treatment but was
incarcerated on April 28, 2014. . . . On May 7, 2014, the
[petitioner] filed a motion to open and modify disposition
seeking commitment of the children. On May 23, 2014, neither
parent appeared in court, and the motion was granted. The
children were committed to the [custody of the petitioner]
and have remained committed since that date. [The respondent]
arrived late at court and claimed no knowledge as to the
children's location. The children were located, secured
and . . . have remained in the department's care since
steps for [the respondent and the father] remained in effect
[that] required them in part to advise the department of
potential family placement resources. [Their] mutual judgment
and concern for their children's well-being were
demonstrated by their joint nomination of a paternal uncle as
a custodial resource [who] was disqualified shortly
thereafter by his incarceration on narcotics charges.
the commitment, both parents were given reunification steps
to follow, which included the responsibility to maintain
contact with [the department], to cooperate with individual
counseling and substance abuse evaluation and treatment, to
remain sober, to obtain a lawful income and housing, to avoid
criminal activity and to visit with the children. Following
the removal of the children, [the respondent] disappeared.
She resurfaced in an administrative case review meeting held
at [the department two months later] on July 23, 2014 ... .
[The respondent] next came to the department's attention
when she was incarcerated in Connecticut in October of 2014
on drug related charges. Substance abuse had been an area of
significant concern for [the respondent]. [She] reported
having prescriptions for multifarious prescription pain
killers and thwarted the department's efforts to
establish the need for and the credibility of those claims. .
. . [The respondent] agreed to [substance abuse] testing, yet
never submitted to a test. Her excuses were myriad, but in
essence amounted to an inability to get to [the] testing. . .
. [The respondent] still has not submitted to substance abuse
testing and treatment of an adequate nature. . . .
respondent] has no independent stable housing. She is
dependent upon the charity of a friend for her housing. She
has no identified income. Most significantly, however, is the
fact that [the respondent] has only visited with her children
two times since they were committed to the department. She
does not contact the children through authorized channels.
She knows the foster mother, as it is a relative foster
placement, and does not contact the children through the
foster parent. . . .
[Kelly F.] Rogers, [the court-appointed psychological
evaluator] noted that [the respondent] has a
passive-aggressive streak which expresses itself indirectly
in negativism, sarcasm and passive aggression that usually
served to worsen her associations, particularly those with
authority figures, and that this is a strong pattern quite
resistant to change. [The respondent] continually appears
late for meetings or does not come at all. She does not
cooperate with the department [workers] in terms of
responding to them. This is all in keeping with [Rogers']
finding that [the respondent] resists authority figures. . .
. [Rogers] opined that she may meet the criteria for several
personality disorders, but at the least a personality
disorder not otherwise specified with histrionic borderline
narcissistic and passive aggressive traits. . . .
respondent] has not cooperated with . . . treatment, and the
court finds that given her failure to visit [the minor
children], her arrest on narcotics charges, her failure to
establish a stable income and housing and her lack of
cooperation with counseling, the department has established .
. . that it made reasonable efforts to reunify with [the
respondent], that [the respondent] is unwilling or unable to
benefit from those efforts, that her children were previously
found to [have been] neglected and that she has failed to
achieve the degree of personal rehabilitation that would
encourage the belief that within a reasonable time she could
assume a responsible position in the lives of her children.
Her two oldest children had special needs, and were in
therapy and were failing in school while in the care of [the
respondent]. They have improved dramatically since removal
from [the respondent's] care. The court has no reasons to
believe that these improvements would remain if returned to
[the respondent] at any time. . . .
respect to [the issue of] abandonment . . . [the respondent]
responded to the commitment of her children by disappearing
for a two month period. Since that date, she has not
maintained contact with the children and has maintained
irregular and inadequate contact with the department. Most
importantly, she has visited her children only two times.
Despite being noted to be in the area several times, she has
not attempted to visit her children through permitted
channels. . . .
prior to their commitment, the oldest children were
exhibiting behavioral and serious educational deficiencies
mostly rooted in their extensive truancy. Since being removed
from [the respondent's] custody . . . the children have
blossomed in the care of their foster mother. They are doing
well academically. They attend school regularly. They are not
having behavioral issues and they are both in counseling and
thriving. . . .
court finds that [the respondent] abandoned them and has
demonstrated little or no interest in the children. She
certainly is not in a position to provide for their growth,
development, well-being, nor is she capable of providing
continuity and stability." The court thus found by clear
and convincing evidence that termination of the
respondent's parental rights was in the best interest of
the children. Accordingly, the court rendered judgments
terminating her parental rights pursuant to § 17a-112
respondent does not contest any of those factual findings in
this appeal. Rather, her appeal is centered entirely on an
exchange that transpired in the middle of trial regarding the
potential testimony of her father, J. Approximately halfway
through the evidentiary stage of that proceeding, the court
took a brief recess at the request of the respondent. When
trial resumed, the following colloquy transpired:
"The Court: Good afternoon. The court notes the return
of those previously present. And there is a new gentleman
sitting in ...