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In re Lilyana P.

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

December 9, 2016


          Argued November 14, 2016 [**]

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Middlesex, Child Protection Session at Middletown, Olear, J.

          David J. Reich, for the appellant (respondent mother).

          Daniel M. Salton, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were George Jepsen, attorney general, and Benjamin Zivyon, assistant attorney general, for the appellee (petitioner).

          Lavine, Alvord and Schaller, Js.


          ALVORD, J.

         The respondent mother, Laura F., appeals from the judgment of the trial court, rendered in favor of the petitioner, the Commissioner of Children and Families, terminating her parental rights with respect to her daughter, Lilyana P.[1] On appeal, the respondent claims that the court (1) improperly determined, in accordance with General Statutes § 17a-112 (j) (3) (B) (i), that the petitioner had proven by clear and convincing evidence that Lilyana previously was adjudicated neglected and that the respondent had failed to achieve a sufficient degree of personal rehabilitation to encourage a belief that she could assume a responsible position in Lilyana's life within a reasonable period of time, and (2) violated her substantive due process rights ‘‘because [she] was recovering from a disabling medical condition that had prevented her from rehabilitating as a parent.'' We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The record reveals the following relevant facts, which are uncontested or were found by the trial court, and procedural history. The respondent, as a child, suffered from neglect, as well as physical and sexual abuse. Because of the abuse, the respondent was mentally unstable, which led to her three month hospitalization in the fall of 1995. At that time, when the respondent was nine years old, she was diagnosed with impulsive control disorder, mood disorder, obsessive compulsive traits, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

         The respondent graduated from high school, but her only reported employment occurred in 2008. She has never been married. In 2005, her first child was born, who is in the care of his paternal aunt and the aunt's mother as co-guardians. In 2008, her second child was born, and a transfer of guardianship to that child's maternal aunt and uncle was granted in 2010. The children have different biological fathers.

         The respondent has a significant history of substance abuse. While she was together with the father of her second child, she and the father used cocaine. They spent between $40, 000 and $50, 000 on cocaine and alcohol, which depleted her grandmother's savings account and his trust fund. The respondent stopped using cocaine when she became pregnant with her second child in 2007.

         In April, 2009, the respondent suffered multiple injuries in a serious automobile accident. While hospitalized, she was exposed to and became a carrier of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). She weighed more than 225 pounds when she was released from the hospital, and has had mobility issues as a result of her injuries and the loss of her calf muscle due to MRSA. Additionally, the respondent is prone to kidney infections, herniated discs, and migraine headaches.

         In November, 2012, the respondent met Bryan P., the father of her third child, Lilyana. She became pregnant shortly after they met, and Lilyana was born in August, 2013. At the time of her birth, Lilyana had benzodiaze-pines and opiates in her system and was experiencing withdrawal symptoms. When the respondent indicated that she was going to remove Lilyana from the hospital against medical advice, a call was placed to the Department of Children and Families (department). Lilyana was released to her parents' care, however, after they agreed to cooperate with the department.

         In April, 2014, the petitioner filed for an order of temporary custody because of ongoing concerns about the parents' substance abuse, their refusal to allow the department access to Lilyana, and their revocation of the releases they previously had signed allowing the department to communicate with service providers for them and Lilyana. Among the department's concerns, the respondent had visited various emergency rooms, which were not affiliated with her health care providers, seeking opiates. She also has a history of abusing prescription medications. On the scheduled date of the hearing on the petitioner's application, the parties reached an agreement, and Lilyana was returned to her parents. Specific steps were approved by the court on April 30, 2014, which included orders that the respondent was to have supervised contact only with Lilyana, and the parents were to enroll Lilyana in a child care facility at the department's expense.

         In July, 2014, the respondent participated in a court-ordered psychological evaluation by Edward Rabe, M.D., Ph.D., who is an expert in child and adolescent psychiatry. Having missed her first scheduled appointment with Dr. Rabe, the respondent arrived an hour late for the second appointment. Her diagnosis at that time was mood disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and opiate abuse in remission. Dr. Rabe noted the respondent's history of substance abuse, including use of cocaine, and her intermittent use of opiates that had been prescribed during emergency room visits. He found her mental status evaluation to be ‘‘unremarkable, with the exception of her relative lack of insight and judgment related to her minimization of the significance of obtaining pain medications from prescribers who are not members of her treatment team, and her failure to recognize the ...

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