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In re Harmony Q.

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

March 3, 2017


          Argued February 3, 2017 [**]

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Juvenile Matters, Woods, J.

          David J. Reich, assigned counsel, for the appellant (respondent father).

          Evan O'Roark, 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).

          Sheldon, Keller and Prescott, Js.


          PER CURIAM.

          The respondent father, Carlos Q., appeals from the judgment of the trial court rendered in favor of the petitioner, the Commissioner of Children and Families, terminating his parental rights with respect to his daughter, Harmony Q.[1] On appeal, the respondent claims that the court improperly concluded that (1) he had failed to achieve a sufficient degree of personal rehabilitation necessary to encourage a belief that he could assume a responsible position in Harmony's life within a reasonable period of time, [2] and (2) termination of his parental rights was in the best interest of the child.[3] 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. The respondent is the father of five children, including Harmony. While living in Orlando, Florida, he married Myra M., who gave birth to the respondent's first two children. In 2004, he ended the relationship with Myra and moved to Hartford with the two children from that marriage. The respondent met another woman and fathered two more children. Those children have always resided with their mother. In 2009, he sent the two children who were residing with him back to Florida to live with their mother. Since 2009, none of his children has resided with him.

         In 2011, the respondent met Luz R. (mother), who gave birth to their daughter, Harmony Q., on August 29, 2013. One month before Harmony's birth, the respondent was arrested in Massachusetts for the illegal possession of a firearm. Prior to that incident, the respondent had been arrested in Connecticut nine times, between 2007 and 2013, on charges including assault and possession of narcotics.

         Harmony resided with the mother until she was arrested on November 7, 2013, and charged with the sale of illegal drugs, possession of narcotics, possession of drug paraphernalia, and risk of injury to a child. The Department of Children and Families (department) subsequently removed Harmony from the mother's home and placed her with her cousin, Juan N., and his wife, Nilda N. The respondent was released on bond that same month, after Harmony already had been placed with her maternal relatives.[4] In March, 2014, Harmony was adjudicated neglected and committed to the care and custody of the commissioner.

         The respondent subsequently was sentenced to two years of incarceration, eighteen months mandatory, on the illegal possession of a firearm charge. He began serving that sentence on September 23, 2014. In the ten months between when he was released on bond and when he returned to serve his sentence, the respondent was referred by the department for multiple services, which he failed to complete.[5] He also failed to attend court-mandated parenting and individual counseling, and was arrested for a tenth time in Connecticut in connection with an unrelated incident.[6]

         The respondent, during those months, supported the mother's effort to reunify with Harmony. Nevertheless, he personally visited Harmony only periodically. Approximately one month before the respondent returned to Massachusetts to serve his sentence on the firearm charge, on August 24, 2014, Harmony's commitment was revoked and she was returned to the custody of the mother under a period of nine months of protective supervision by the department. Harmony resided with the mother for approximately four and one-half months before being removed from her custody a second time, because she was arrested again for selling narcotics out of her apartment. The department again placed Harmony with Juan N. and Nilda N. On January 16, 2015, Harmony was recommitted to the care and custody of the commissioner.[7] Thereafter, the department brought Harmony to the prison for monthly supervised visits with the respondent. On May 12, 2015, the commissioner filed a petition seeking the termination of the respondent's and the mother's parental rights, alleging the ground of failure to rehabilitate as to both parents. The court approved, on November 10, 2015, a permanency plan of termination of parental rights and adoption.

         While in prison, the respondent participated in various programs offered by the Department of Correction in Massachusetts, which targeted parenting skills, financial wellness, and prevention relapses. The respondent's sentence ended on January 4, 2016, after which he moved back to Connecticut and obtained gainful employment and his own apartment. After his release, he was required, by court-ordered specific steps, to complete services with local providers. Not only did he fail to complete any of those services, but the respondent informed the assigned social worker, Ama Tandoh, that he had ‘‘done enough'' and did not believe that he needed any additional services.

         The respondent was also offered weekly supervised two hour visits with Harmony. Between January, 2016, and March, 2016, the respondent failed to attend three scheduled visits with Harmony, citing work scheduling conflicts despite his knowledge that the visits could be scheduled to accommodate his work schedule. Two other visits were cancelled due to weather and a state holiday. Despite the department's offer to add time to the regularly scheduled visits, the ...

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