IN RE DAMIAN G. ET AL.[*]
October 4, 2017 [**]
Michael S. Taylor, assigned counsel, with whom was Marina L.
Green, assigned counsel, for the appellant (respondent
Patel, assistant attorney general, with whom were Benjamin
Zivyon, assistant attorney general, and, on the brief, George
Jepsen, attorney general, for the appellee (petitioner).
Michael F. Miller, for the minor children.
Keller, Elgo and Flynn, Js.
respondent, Felicia B., appeals from the judgments of the
trial court terminating her parental rights with respect to
her biological sons, Damian G. and Jeremiah G., pursuant to
General Statutes § 17a-112 (j). The respondent claims that
the court erroneously found that: (1) she failed to
rehabilitate and (2) the termination of her parental rights
was in the best interests of the children. We affirm the
judgments of the trial court.
March 29, 2016, the Commissioner of Children and Families
(petitioner) petitioned the court to terminate the parental
rights of the respondent and Juan G. in their biological
sons, Damian and Jeremiah. Following a trial, the court
granted the petitions. In its oral decision,  the court
observed that, after the petitioner filed the present
petitions, Juan G. consented to the termination of his
parental rights with respect to both children. The
respondent, however, contested the petitions. Before setting
forth relevant legal principles, the court observed:
‘‘As to [the respondent], the [petitioner] . . .
claims that it is in the best interests of the boys to
terminate [the respondent's] parental rights, that [the
Department of Children and Families (department)] . . . made
reasonable efforts to reunify the children with [the
respondent], or [the respondent] was unable or unwilling to
benefit from reunification efforts, that the boys had been
found in a prior proceeding to have been neglected, and that
[the respondent] had failed to achieve the degree of personal
rehabilitation that would encourage the belief that within a
reasonable time, considering the age and needs of the
children, [the respondent] could assume a responsible
position in the lives of her children.''
court went on to find the following facts under the clear and
convincing evidence standard of proof: ‘‘Damian
was born [in] September . . . 2011; Jeremiah was born [in]
January . . . 2014. [The respondent] is the mother of both
boys. [Juan G.], who consented to the termination of his
parental rights, was the father of both boys.
respondent] had a very troubled childhood. She was adopted
and raised in New Hampshire and Maine. She acknowledged a
significant history of substance abuse which began at the age
of eight. She started using alcohol and incorporating
marijuana. By age thirteen, she began experimenting with and
using heroin. By age sixteen, she was using cocaine. She also
reported abusing oxycodone and Vicodin. [The respondent] has
an extreme history of substance abuse.
well, she reported being traumatized as a child, that trauma
includ[ed] sexual abuse, [and] verbal and mental abuse during
her childhood. She has not spoken in detail about it. She did
report a history of suicidal ideation and acts, as well as
cutting and burning behavior in efforts to harm herself. She
did report that those have not occurred for years.
Damian's birth, the department was involved for a period
of time in 2012. A period of protective supervision resulted
in the closure of the file.
August, 2013, [Juan G.] was arrested and incarcerated as a
result of a serious domestic violence incident between [Juan
G.] and [the respondent].
November 12, 2013, the [petitioner] filed a neglect petition
and sought an order of temporary custody for Damian. At that
time, [the respondent] acknowledged to the department that
she had relapsed and begun using heroin approximately three
months earlier, which would coincide with the date of [Juan
G.'s] removal from the home by the authorities. [The
respondent] was pregnant with Jeremiah at the time.
order of temporary custody was granted on November 12, 2013,
for Damian, and sustained on November 22, 2013, by agreement.
At that time, it was reported that [the respondent] was
seeking mental health and substance abuse treatment at
Wellmore in Waterbury and was pregnant with Jeremiah.
December 18, 2013, [the respondent] and [Juan G.] submitted
pleas of nolo contendere, and Damian was adjudicated
neglected and committed to the [department]. Specific steps
for reunification were set and signed by [the respondent] on
that date. [The respondent] at that time was at the
Crossroads Amethyst House program.
was born [in] January . . . 2014, and discharged from the
hospital with [the respondent] for continued placement at the
April 1, 2014, a motion to open and modify disposition as to
Damian was granted, and protective supervision was granted
for a period of nine months. [The respondent] was residing
with the boys at the Amethyst House at the time. She was
discharged from the Amethyst House on July 28, 2014. During
her period of time there, she was noted to have been
frustrated with her boys and did not utilize counseling
sessions afforded to her to address any of her needs. She
chose not to come to a weekly one-on-one session.
an attempt to engage her, the Amethyst House consulted with
her supervisor for suggestions in engaging [the respondent]
in the individual counseling process. After making several
attempts, [the respondent] was notified that her failure to
attend would be documented. She was reminded that her
recovery process needed her input. She appeared to be
late July, allegations arose as to whether [the respondent]
was using [a synthetic form of cannabis known as] K2 and
selling K2, as reported by other residents. Amethyst House
relied on a drug test to show that [the respondent] had
violated [its] house rules by using K2. The result of the
test was greatly disputed by [the respondent]. As an
immediate result of the report, [the respondent] was told she
was on restricted status and could not leave Amethyst House.
[The respondent] left Amethyst House without permission,
attempting to manipulate the situation. It led to her
a result of her discharge from Amethyst House, she had
nowhere to go and her boys became homeless, and a second
order of temporary custody was issued. On July 31, 2014, a
neglect petition was filed on behalf of Jeremiah, and orders
of temporary custody were issued on behalf of both boys.
Those orders for temporary custody were subsequently
sustained, and on August 29, 2014, Jeremiah was adjudicated
September 22, 2014, [the respondent] had secured supportive
housing through the Thames River Family Program in Norwich.
The court returned both boys to [the respondent], subject to
six months of protective supervision, which was subsequently
extended to June 19, 2015.
this period of time [the respondent] was expected to
cooperate with individual counseling . . . [and] with
substance abuse treatment and testing, to not use any drugs
unless prescribed, to get and maintain an adequate home and a
legal income, to cooperate with any restraining order, and,
when the boys were not in her care, to visit as often as
permitted.'' (Footnotes added.)
court went on to address the respondent's compliance with
her specific steps for mental health and substance abuse
treatment. The court stated: ‘‘With respect to
the individual counseling component, [the respondent] was
referred or engaged in individual counseling with several
different services. She was addressing her post-traumatic
stress disorder and anxiety issues with the United Community
Family Services. As noted, she entered the Wellmore
Behavioral Health Program at the time Damian was removed from
her care for inpatient treatment. That individual counseling
was continued through the Amethyst House and, as noted, [the
respondent] was not fully cooperative and engaged with that
respondent] was referred to the Women and Family Center for
trauma focused services in New Haven on March 4, 2014. On
April 22, 2014, [the respondent] advised the department that
she had left it as she did not see a benefit and was planning
on leaving the area. As noted, [the respondent] was
unsuccessfully discharged from Amethyst House in late July,
2014. She relocated to a shelter in New London and reported
that she was going to counseling at Connecticut Behavioral
November, 2014, [the respondent] indicated that she had
located housing in Norwich and was having difficulty getting
to New London for her counseling sessions. [The respondent]
was referred to the United Community Family Services or the
Connecticut Behavioral Health Associates in Norwich. From
November, 2014, until January, 2015, [the respondent] was not
involved in those services.
respondent] did an intake for a dual diagnosis program in
January, 2015, at the Southern New England Mental Health
Authority and only reported one time between then and late
case took a dramatic change in April, 2015. [The respondent]
was residing in supportive housing with her sons. In early
April, 2015, without notice to the [department], [the
respondent] gave temporary custody of her sons to [Juan G.]
and went to Maine. [The respondent] was arrested on April 13,
2015, on serious charges related to the sale of narcotics. As
a result of this arrest, [the respondent] was incarcerated,
sentenced, and imprisoned in Maine from April, 2015, until
respondent] did not immediately notify the department of her
plans and her placement of her sons with [Juan
A third order of temporary custody for Damian and a second
order of temporary custody for Jeremiah was issued following
the department learning of [the respondent's] arrest and
orders] of temporary custody [were] issued on April 17, 2015.
The boys have remained in the care of the department since
that date. Both boys were committed to the department on July
7, 2015, and have remained committed ever since.
steps had been in place since 2013, as noted. [The
respondent's] attorney negotiated new steps for [the
respondent] while [she was] incarcerated, including that she
engage in regular or frequent individual therapy until
successful completion, and that she cooperate with [the
department's] recommended services while incarcerated,
including substance abuse services, mental health services,
and parenting programs.
respondent], to her credit, attended and participated in
multiple programs while [she was] incarcerated and submitted
a number of certificates of completion. [The respondent]
claimed that these were all the programs that were available
to her, and the court has no reason to believe otherwise.
[the respondent] was incarcerated, [Juan G.] came back into
the picture and asked for reunification efforts and moved to
revoke the commitments. Substantial efforts at reunification
with [Juan G.] were made, all of which were supported by [the
respondent] from her incarceration in Maine. These efforts
continued following [the respondent's] discharge from
incarceration in April, 2016, again, with [the
for the boys and [Juan G.], [Juan G.] was arrested and
incarcerated as a result of serious charges completely
unrelated to [the respondent], and subsequently consented to
the termination of his parental rights . . . .
[the respondent] has been back in the community since April
of 2016, she has complied with some steps and not fully with
others. [The respondent] has engaged in mental health
counseling and has visited faithfully with her boys. She had
little or no bond with Jeremiah, but has reengaged with him.
Her boys care for her. She deeply cares for them.
as [Emily Kavanaugh, a social worker who is employed by Kids
Advocates and provides supervised visitation and parenting
and education skills] reported, [the respondent] appears
overwhelmed and teary when the boys misbehave, and [the
respondent appears to be] unable to meet their needs. . . .
Kavanaugh has repeatedly recommended that structure be
provided, particularly because of these boys and their needs.
boys have developmental delays, Damian's the most serious
of all. Damian may be diagnosed with autism spectrum
disorder; there is a suggestion of that. His behavior is
difficult to manage, he has trouble with transition, and he
is clearly developmentally delayed. Jeremiah demonstrates
developmental delay and is a very high-energy, difficult to
control young man.
testified that, and the court finds credible her claim, that
structure and limit setting by [the respondent] do not go
well; that both boys have significant developmental delays;
that [the respondent] can get it in the moment, but does not
seem able to absorb and retain and use developmentally
appropriate toys, games, discipline, or limit setting.
Ultimately, [Kavanaugh] felt that discipline and limit
setting were a great challenge for [the respondent] and that
[the respondent] would shut down and not follow through.
respondent] advised the department that she had obtained a
job working in landscaping and that she also had social
security disability benefits. The department could not
confirm the landscaping job. [The respondent] did not provide
proof of income on that score, nor was the department able to
discern whether the under-the-table income would result in
[the respondent] losing her social security disability
benefits or being exposed to criminal possibilities.
it is unclear whether [the respondent] has an appropriate or
sufficient legal income. What was clear is [the respondent]
did not have . . . appropriate or sufficient housing. [The
respondent] was living in one room of a rooming house and
would not let the department inspect it. She acknowledged
that it was not a resource for the boys and saw no reason for
[the department] to inspect her ...